• President Macron stating that Europeans may consider sending troops to Ukraine is a psychological shock for Europeans. It brings war one step closer to kitchen tables. But is it feasible from a battlefield perspective? 

    Mostly because of Moscow’s extreme “denazification” goals, there are only two ways out of this conflict right now: Russia’s victory or Ukraine’s victory. And given demographics and Ukrainian infantry losses, it is all too obvious that Ukraine can only last two or three more years at this deadly pace. Russia, on the other hand, can prolong the ordeal it initiated until the end of the decade. 

    In practice, this means that Ukraine’s second military mobilisation wave will be its last. Could European troops be that third wave that would allow Ukraine’s war effort to regenerate as of 2025 or 2026? Is the future a combination of European and Ukrainian troops fighting side by side?

    Let us be frank: once in Ukraine, it is highly unlikely that European troops will stay for very long safely in the rear. The Russian army will find a way to engage them with deep ballistic strikes. Additional air defences will protect these fresh European units; they could also protect certain industrial sites ramping up arms production. But Russia will find ways to overcome these defensive measures by concentrating its fires. European troops will be in immediate danger: you can expect wounded and killed in action as of the first month of engagement.

    Europeans have not faced such battlefield intensity since World War II. The air dominance and heavily-walled bases of Afghanistan, of Iraq or of the Balkans cannot be used as a benchmark. European armies would need to test never tried before concepts such as decentralised operations with little connectivity from front to rear, or the integration of civilian digital tools within military manoeuvers. Even European Special Forces would operate in an unprecedented context.

    At a more strategic level, supporters of Ukraine would have three options: NATO, EU or national contingents. 

    Option 1: NATO. NATO decision making is driven by consensus, which sits at the heart of its centre of gravity, which is Alliance cohesion. There is currently no consensus of this in NATO, with the White House declaring it would not send troops to Ukraine. Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic also all swiftly distanced themselves from the idea.

    However, if consensus was to be established, then NATO has the command and control (C2) at strategic level (HQ NATO and SHAPE), supported by LANDCOM, AIRCOM, MARCOM and NSHQ; at the operational level; JFC Brunssum, Naples and Norfolk and at the tactical level a number of High Readiness Force Land HQs (HRFL). The elements of these in the VJTF and NATO Response Force (NRF) are at high readiness.

    Option 2: the European Union. The EU lacks the command and control framework that NATO has and is not set up and organised for war fighting, which is what this would become very quickly. It also lacks the confidence that comes from experience as it never sent such a volume of soldiers meeting such life and death odds. The EU would be very quickly asking NATO for C2 and logistic support. 

    However, this option could be a good catalyst for the establishment of an EU force structure, along the vision of France. In the context of a future President Trump and dwindling US support for NATO, this might be a serious option. It might also be a very good strategic communications initiative to start to mobilise and force generate the resources required, which in turn would send a strong message to Russia.

    Option 3: a group of willing nations. This is what is happening right now. Nations are providing logistical and C2 support on a bilateral basis, particularly in supporting the delivery of intelligence, high tech weapons and ammunition. Perhaps these activities could be better grouped and messaged to send a stronger and more cohesive supporting message to Ukraine and Russia. NATO would be the most effective organisation to do this and could do so without deploying C2 into Ukraine.  A strategy of ‘leading from behind’.

    However, it leaves a few questions open. First, what would be the relationship of the forces deployed with Ukraine’s own military chain of command? Would they be subordinate to the Ukrainian armed forces or would they operate under the national command of the sending state? The question is not a simple one.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, what would be the purpose of this foreign force supporting Ukrainians, bearing in mind that Russia and China will block any UN resolution: Ukraine becoming whole again? Making sure that Russian forces cannot advance up to the Dnieper? Ensuring that Odessa remains Ukrainian for longer-term economic viability?

    Third, how would we pull out if we have to and on what terms? If Russia were to advance past the Dnieper or move troops again from Belarus, Europe’s foreign contingent would have to reconsider its layout and its overall purpose in coordination with Kyiv. A mixture of guerilla activities and diplomacy may ensue.

    Winning in Ukraine needs such conceptual bluntness and adaptability. It also needs to be comprehensive from the start: land manoeuvres, maritime, air, cyber, including increased strikes into Russian flanks, tech, robots, drones, AI, loitering munitions, cyber information operations targeting the mothers at home and those stuck in the trenches.

    All these questions do not need to be tackled in the media or in any other public debate, though Macron’s “thinking of the extremes” was highly useful. This is something our political and military leaders can think about behind closed doors in the next few months. So should those gloomy men in their bunkers within the walls of the Kremlin.

    Michael Benhamou Juha Vauhkonen Gary Deakin Defence Ukraine

    Michael Benhamou

    Juha Vauhkonen

    Gary Deakin

    Should Europe Send Troops to Ukraine? 

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Apr 2024

  • Travelling to Kyiv in 2024 requires a 24 hour trip through 3 different means of transportation. Only 2 and a half years ago, this would’ve been dismissed as pure fiction. But here I was, with a delegation of 30 people from different parts of Europe and the US flying to Warsaw, followed by a 4 hour drive to the Ukrainian border and finally a 12-hour sleeper train that would take of us to the Kyiv Security Forum.

    Among the first recommended things to do when going to Ukraine is downloading an air alert app on your phone, which blasts alerts of potential shelling and shows the closest shelter where one can find safety. Sure enough, on the early morning of our arrival to Kyiv on 21st March, 31 missiles were launched on the capital in the biggest attack seen in 44 days, debris of which caused significant damage to roads and civilian buildings.

    During the night of 22 March we were awoken, alongside all those living in Ukraine, by a massive attack on the country’s energy infrastructure. A total of 60 drones and 90 missiles were fired, causing major damage to the huge Dnipro hydroelectric power plant. This is Ukraine’s largest, and the one that supplies power to the nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia. In Kharkiv, almost 1 million people were left without electricity as a result of the attack.

    As the Russian Federation was intensifying its attacks on Ukraine, the Kyiv Security Forum was unfolding with local and international guests leading discussions on Ukraine’s prospects of joining the EU and NATO, the country’s internal political dimension, the situation on the frontline and the West’s support to Kyiv.

    The loudest message resonating in the room was the need for more military aid – of every type and in every form, from ammunition to air defence. As Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of NATO’s Military Committee, rightfully pointed out, Ukrainian soldiers are fighting a war combining WWI methods of trenches and artillery barrages with 21st century drones and artificial intelligence. Ukrainian troops are pioneering innovation by using Soviet-style equipment in combination with modern Western material. But they can only continue doing so if more helps comes quickly.

    Every passing week, the Kremlin is able to produce more ammunition and missiles than the West thought possible. Somehow, North Korea and Iran can provide military aid to Russia more efficiently than the wealthy and powerful collective West can to Ukraine. Western countries should set clear priorities and ramp up military production by creating partnerships with the private sector to invest in the defence industry.

    Today, Ukraine is underarmed and undermanned. During the battle of Avdiivka, the ratio of Russian to Ukrainian soldiers was 7 to 1 according to Colonel Andriy Biletskyi, Commmander of the Third Separate Assault Brigade of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, victory could’ve been achieved with proper and modern air defence and enough ammunition. The deficit in weaponry leads to difficulties in mobilising troops, therefore leading to even more disparity in the number of soldiers on the frontline.

    To successfully continue their task of defending against Russian occupation, the main expectations of the Ukrainian military for 2024 are a viable law on mobilisation from their own government and delivery of necessary military supplies from their allies. Warfare is complicated and multifaceted, and so too is the necessary hardware and weaponry. Air defence systems remain a priority as Russians hold a decisive supremacy in the skies.

    However, despite words of support and encouragement from Ukraine’s allies, the situation remains grim. Expressions of condemnation and condolences are not enough. At the moment the world is failing to mobilise the support Ukraine needs, while Russia tries to degrade the resources Kyiv does have.

    Some nations do however set a positive example, like Denmark, the first country committing to transfer its entire artillery to Ukraine and urging others to follow. The Baltic states’ bilateral aid to Ukraine from Jan 24, 2022 to Jan 15, 2024 is respectively of 3.6% of GDP for Estonia, 1.5% for Lithuania and 1.2% for Latvia, while the biggest EU Member States are at 0.6%.

    With EU and American elections coming up in a few months, 2024 could be a make or break year for Ukraine, and all eyes are on the upcoming Washington Summit. The Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Olha Stefanyshyna, states that Ukraine has expectations but no illusions, as the only commitment from NATO allies is a recurrent message of “Ukraine will become a member of NATO, it’s not a question of if but of when”.

    One thing is clear, neutrality does not guarantee peace and grey zones are a danger for international security. While writing this piece, two more air strikes were carried out by Russia on Kyiv and Lviv on 24 and 25 March.

    Ukraine is fighting for its rightful place in the EU and NATO as a full-fledged member among democracies in the collective West, but its chance of survival depends on the timely delivery of military aid from its allies.

    Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Dispatch from Kyiv


    27 Mar 2024

  • When an idea like the defence community re-emerges regularly over the course of 70 years but is never
    realised, what does this tell us? The message is, first, that the idea is backed by a strong rationale that
    does not allow us simply to shelve it and move on; but also, that the preconditions for its implementation
    have been absent.

    This paper brings together the insights of many Martens Centre experts in order to better understand what Europe needs to develop its defence policy and to how to implement the necessary steps.

    Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy Security

    The 7Ds – Defence in Depth

    The 7Ds

    06 Mar 2024

  • Two years already have passed since the eruption of war in Ukraine, yet the conflict’s outcome remains uncertain as ever. European leaders, in numerous declarations, have staunchly expressed their commitment to Ukraine, vowing unwavering support in the face of aggression.

    The West has managed to provide substantial backing, and the EU surprised itself with its solid support for Ukraine. However, the reality on the ground in Ukraine today is extremely worrying. Tangible assistance has fallen short and arrived late of what is truly needed.

    Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine has morphed into a larger battle waged by the East against the West, but not all in the US and Europe agree on this perception. Thus, the West finds itself ill-prepared to confront this challenge effectively.

    The United States, mainly its deadlocked, partisan Congress, continues to deliberate on providing substantial support, leaving Ukraine in a precarious position with uncertain prospects for financial and military assistance. Domestic political troubles in the US are undermining its decade-long investments into its global influence.

    Meanwhile, European nations are awakening to the urgency of the situation, hastily fortifying their defences. However, the logistical complexities mean that meaningful European aid to Ukraine will most likely arrive too late. The need for support is pressing, with Ukraine requiring assistance yesterday, not tomorrow.

    One of Putin’s most potent tools in this conflict has been nuclear deterrence, a realisation that is only now dawning upon Europe. Discussions abound regarding the modalities of nuclear defence, including the controversial proposal of a common European nuclear arsenal.

    Behind closed doors, there is a minority but growing sentiment within certain segments of the European political establishment that some form of accommodation with Russia may be necessary. Meanwhile, countries in Russia’s geographical proximity understand that peace with Russia might only offer temporary respite, before Putin sets off on the war path again.

    The war in Ukraine has shifted the political landscape in Europe, with defence emerging as a paramount issue. As a result, power dynamics within Europe are undergoing a subtle but significant shift Eastward. Countries bordering Russia are placing renewed emphasis on defence spending, recognising its newfound importance in a post-Fukuyama world characterised by disorder and geopolitical volatility.

    Amidst debates within the EU about the feasibility of a unified European army, the stark reality is simple: currently, Ukraine’s army IS the European army, serving as a frontline defence for Europe’s security, its values, and its future. The moral implications of delayed assistance weigh heavily on the West, as Ukrainian lives are lost while European politicians deliberate.

    As the conflict drags on, questions about the future relationship between Europe, the EU, and Ukraine loom large. Should Ukraine emerge from this ordeal as a divided and disillusioned nation, betrayed by its European allies, the repercussions would be profound. The assumption of Ukraine’s unwavering pro-EU stance cannot be taken for granted, as trust erodes in the face of prolonged neglect.

    In light of these challenges, the path forward for the EU and Europe is clear: we must honour the pledges made at the onset of the conflict and provide unequivocal support to Ukraine in its struggle for sovereignty, self-determination, and victory. In war, like politics, persistence and determination are key elements. While Ukraine is in a difficult position, the situation is no easier for Russia, a country now destined for economic and social decline under Putin’s brutal regime, even more so than was already the case. Nothing is lost yet.

    2024 stands as a pivotal juncture, where decisive action is imperative to shape the outcome of this protracted conflict. Inaction in supporting Ukraine risks Europe becoming a battlefield for years to come. The stakes are high, and the time for meaningful intervention is now. The European countries’ response to the Ukraine war will not only define their relationship with Ukraine or their role as global actors, but it is an existential question challenging their capacity to uphold peace, democracy, and human rights within their own continent.

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine Values

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The War in Ukraine, 2 Years On – In 2024, Europe Must Decide if it Wants to Win

    Blog - Ukraine

    23 Feb 2024

  • The Russian state is a threat to freedom in Europe and the integrity of the EU. Since 1945 we have relied on the United States to protect freedom on our continent. While it is to be hoped the US will be able to stay involved in the most successful democratic alliance in history, the risk of conflict in Asia, a return to isolationism, or the re-election of Donald Trump is too high for the EU not to develop a defence industrial and technological base (DITB) able to supply Europe’s defence on its own. Such a renewed DITB will furthermore be able to contribute to the collective defence of democracy across the globe and support our friends and allies in the United States and democratic Asia. In the worst case it will allow Europe to defend itself from Russian aggression alone. In the best circumstances it will strengthen the international community of democracies.

    This paper finds that developing such capability is well within the capacity of the EU and its member states and proposes a series of measures by which it can be financed. It analyses the composition of the defence budgets of EDA members between 2017 and 2021, and assesses their levels of defence investment, research and development, and “research and technology” (R&T – fundamental technological research that is itself an input to R&D). It identifies gaps and recommends EU policies and instruments to close them.

    Defence European Union Foreign Policy Industry

    Freedom Must Be Better Armed Than Tyranny: Boosting Research and Industrial Capacity for European Defence

    Policy Briefs

    30 Nov 2023

  • On October 7, a group of Hamas terrorists managed to infiltrate Israeli territory, execute a pogrom against Israeli civilians and capture over 200 hostages. The heinous attack shattered Israel’s deterrence and defence credibility and brought into question Netanyahu’s policies vis-a-vis Hamas and the Palestinian issue.

    The attack came at a time when Netanyahu’s coalition government, with its extreme right-wing partners, had normalised relations with Arab states in the Gulf (through the Abraham Accords) and was working towards normalising relations with Saudi Arabia. Derailing this normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab states, which did not include the Palestinians, was obviously an unspoken objective of Hamas’ terrorist act. Their other objective was to drag Israel into the abyss, into urban warfare in Gaza, using civilians as human shields, a bloodbath that eventually Israel could not sustain.

    Israel has the right and the duty to defend itself, to restore its deterrence and defense credibility and to restore a sense of security for its people. The shock and awe from the slaughter of innocent civilians brought back memories of the Holocaust. The Israeli state, after all, was founded so that the Jewish people would never again have to suffer such an atrocity. The pogrom of its people demanded an immediate and decisive response. A demand for catharsis that cried for military action. The intruders surely knew that the degree of their atrocities would lead Israel to a disproportionate and escalatory response. Rage and the serious blow to Israel’s sense of security derailed the option of a proportionate, punitive, surgical, and measured response. Israel declared war against Hamas, very much like the U.S. declared a war on terror after 9/11, and set to dismantle the Hamas regime in Gaza and destroy its military capabilities.

    The British never called them wars. They called them “emergencies”. “Emergencies” were campaigns against terrorists that used the qualities of “secrecy, intelligence, political sagacity, quiet ruthlessness, covert actions, and above all infinite patience” as Michael Howard put it. Declaring war against terrorists, Israel’s second war of independence as Netanyahu defined it, however, attributes to them the status of belligerent and a legitimacy they do not have. This is not just a matter of legality or semiotics. War has a whole different set of policy implications and political consequences. The Hamas terrorists wanted to provoke Israel into using overt armed force against them. To declare war against them. The air strikes and the bombardment of Gaza have already caused many Palestinian civilian casualties and have led to a serious humanitarian crisis, before the ground operation even began. With the Palestinians becoming the victims of the victims, Israel runs the risk of seeing the moral justification of its right to self-defence whittled away. Memories of the atrocity will soon be overtaken by the loss of innocent civilian lives. The “battle for hearts and minds” is an important aspect of this campaign against terror. And the frontline of this battle is in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but also in Gaza, the streets of the West Bank, the capitals of the Arab states and the multicultural cities of the West.  

    The war has brought the US back to the region in a heavy-handed involvement. The US, following the catastrophic results of the war on terror after 9/11, and the failure of the neoconservative project in the Middle East, had partially withdrawn from the area. The war shows, however, that the US remains the only power with the reach, military might, and diplomatic clout to mediate regional conflicts such as this on a global scale. China and Russia, the revisionist powers, can be spoilers in the international scene but they cannot play the role the US does. The US declared its support for Israel and sent two aircraft carrier groups to deter Iran, Hezbollah, or any other actor from becoming involved in the conflict. It pressured Israel to open a humanitarian corridor from the south, and engaged in backchannel diplomacy for the release of hostages by Hamas. To that effect, it has urged Israel to postpone its ground operation to give time to diplomacy. The Biden administration, drawing upon the mistakes the US made after 9/11, is trying to admonish Israel to not let rage direct its policy. To be rational, calculating and measured in its response.

    Israel is now facing four major considerations with no easy answers: 1. Is the military objective of a ground operation feasible? 2. What will succeed the dismantling of the Hamas regime in Gaza? 3. Can Israel avoid the opening of a second front by Hezbollah in the north and a wider regional war? 4. What will be the ramifications of the war for its relations with the Palestinians, and the Arab states, in the aftermath?

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos Crisis Defence Middle East

    Constantine Arvanitopoulos

    Dissenting Into the Abyss


    31 Oct 2023

  • This joint publication is the result of a 2-day conference on Security and Defence in the EU that took place as a common project of Martens Centre and De Gasperi Foundation in June 2022. Four panel discussions took place on “The new strategic concept and the war in Ukraine: charting NATO’s route in a changing geopolitical scenario”; “NATO’s future in uncertain times: a new political direction suited for a new era”; “The new security landscape in Europe, NATO’s Madrid Summit and the European Union”; “Time to invest in Security and Defence: political and technological opportunities in a competitive world”. The conference proceedings are an overview of the main discussion points of the panellists who attended the event.

    Defence Security

    Security and Defence Days – Conference Proceedings


    28 Jul 2023

  • I was watching MSNBC a few days ago. The discussion was about why the US was supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions, arms which are banned in the US itself. When asked why the Biden Administration was supplying such munitions to Ukraine, one of the show’s participants, New York Times columnist David Brooks, gave an answer that really startled me. He said “I guess they (the US) have no other munitions to send”.

    So, after a few months of artillery-intense trench warfare, the West has run out of supplies of shells and missiles, and cannot replenish its stocks quickly enough. This reveals acute vulnerability. How on earth did the US, and its European allies, find themselves in this situation? What would happen if Europe found itself engaged in a protracted conflict with Russia? Would we be able to keep our own divisions supplied?

    It seems as if the West has been taken by surprise by this munitions shortage. There is no excuse for that. History provided us with ample warnings. There is a clear precedent, in relatively recent history, for the style of war now being waged in Ukraine… the artillery bombardments, followed by assaults on deep entrenchments, that characterised the Western Front in the First World War. Advances could only be made after heavy bombardment of the front line had first been undertaken.

    Like in Ukraine, the First World War was initially a war of movement. The Germans made rapid advances in 1914, until the French halted them on the Marne. After that, the war quickly became a static artillery war, where advances of as little as 100 metres were celebrated as triumphs. These small advances involved huge casualties among the advancing forces, unless they had been preceded by heavy artillery barrages, with a calibre of shell which destroyed barbed wire as well as larger fortifications.

    In general terms, casualties among the attacking forces were three times as great as they were among the defenders. It stands to reason there is probably a similar ratio in Ukraine now as well.It is becoming plain that Ukraine does not have sufficient supplies of either the type or amount of munitions required to make a major breakthrough and preserve the lives of the brave Ukrainian soldiers sent in to attack the Russian lines. Meanwhile, Russia posseses air superiority, which is more important now than it was in World War One.

    I do not understand why the counter offensive was announced in the first place, when adequate supplies of artillery and munitions were not yet in place. A worrying lack of strategic foresight is evident. Here again, the political precedents from World War One are far from encouraging.

    Within a couple of months of that war starting in 1914, there was already an acute shortage of shells and heavy artillery in the British Army; France and Germany were better supplied. This situation is described by Lloyd George, in Volume One of his War Memoirs. He described the War as a war between German “mechanics” (i.e., munitions manufacturers) and British manufacturers, and said that, in 1915, the German “mechanics” were winning.

    Radical action was required. There was an acute shortage of people available to work in munitions and artillery factories. State enterprise had to be brought into play, because private enterprise was too slow in setting up the required factories. State-owned “Royal Factories” were set up all over these islands, including in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Galway. There were not enough men to work in the factories. So, women had to be employed in this dangerous work. The War became an industrial war.

    But even the opening of the Royal Factories, and the recruitment of thousands of women workers, was too slow in delivering the necessary shells in 1915. This was because there was an acute labour shortage then, just as there is in 2023. The Daily Mail went on the war path. A political crisis ensued. The Liberal Government, led by Asquith and supported by the Irish Party, which was committed to Home Rule, was replaced by a coalition of Liberals and Unionists, led by Lloyd George. In other words, the munitions crisis of 1915 has influenced our political reality today.

    The West is facing similar choices today. Notwithstanding the fact that the NATO counties, especially the US, outspend the Russians on military hardware by an outstanding factor, they have yet to mobilise society for the existential struggle which its chosen ally, Ukraine, is undergoing.

    In addition, the EU may face a political crisis as well because it has not matched its needs with the necessary resources. Member governments must simultaneously ramp up arms production for Ukraine, pour money into the Green Deal, provide for the healthcare of an ageing population, and manage the debt inherited from the COVID-19 epidemic, while still respecting the Maastricht budgetary criteria. These challenges require serious, considerate solutions in order to avoid the pitfalls which have previously befallen the nations of Europe in times of crisis.

    This is all the more true in a scenario where Donald Trump wins the 2024 election in the US, where he may decide to stop supplying arms to Ukraine. Europe would then be alone facing Putin.

    John Bruton Crisis Defence Ukraine

    John Bruton

    The Lessons of History Bode Ill for Ukraine and the West

    Blog - Ukraine

    27 Jul 2023

  • A version of this text was originally published in French in Le Point.

    The Russian war against Ukraine will end, as did every war before it. The current intensity of Russia’s war effort is not sustainable. About half of its heavy armaments have already been destroyed or captured by their Ukrainian adversary after the first year. Only North Korea and Iran are supporting Russia with ammunition and drones. Ukraine, on the other hand, is receiving increasingly sophisticated weapons from the entire West, including decisive assistance by the United States. Previous experience from the First and Second World War tells us that this can be crucial.

    Escalation to nuclear war entails the risk of Russia’s self-destruction. Such a decision is not impossible, but unlikely. Putin designed the conflict to severely damage Ukraine with little effect on Russia itself, in order to preserve and potentially even shore up his own political support base. Russian military doctrine foresees nuclear arms to protect the very existence of Russia. But Russia’s very existence is not under threat, only its imperial and colonial ambitions are.

    It is now reasonable and necessary to start reflecting about the day after.

    The United States comes out of this conflict very much strengthened. Its credibility as a protective power is re-established. Weaknesses shown in the past are pushed into the background of our collective memory. Leaving Afghanistan to the Taliban and the passivity of the Obama administration after the use of chemical weapons by the Russian-allied Assad regime in Syria are no longer the last word. China has taken note, as have Pacific countries who feel threatened by Xi Jinping’s geopolitical ambitions. A military attack against Taiwan by China now seems like less of an easy undertaking or a foregone conclusion.

    Joe Biden has proven to be an impressive leader and established the basis for a second mandate as President of the United States. Far from being “Sleepy Joe”, he provided serene leadership based on his decades of experience as a United States Senator, Vice President under Barack Obama, and his proven track record as a good friend of Europe.

    NATO is not a direct party to the war, but has served as the forum for the coordination of unprecedented weapons deliveries. If it ever was brain dead, it has risen quite remarkably from its ashes. Central and Eastern European states, on the conflict’s borders, feel confirmed in their long-held convictions that in moments of real danger, NATO and the United States are essential. German and French hesitations have contributed to that.

    And still, objective limitations have become obvious also for NATO. In an age where everything is being weaponised, the European Union has a toolkit that NATO does not have. The European Union took the decision to provide a home to millions of Ukrainian war refugees under especially privileged conditions. It passed sanctions on Russia of an intensity never seen before. It provides financial support similar to that of the United States of America. The European Union connected the Ukrainian electricity grid to its own in record time. And perhaps most important: it provides hope to Ukraine by opening up a perspective for membership. NATO and the European Union are obviously complementary, now with a growing role for the European Union.

    But our shortcomings have equally become obvious. The neglect of our military is appalling, the loss of industrial base for armaments creates a near complete dependence on the United States and even South Korea for urgent deliveries. In the absence of a guaranteed demand, German Leopard tanks must now be built one by one and by hand, like in the pre-industrial age. We are paying the price of the European Union not having an internal market for armament products, no common technical standards, no common export policy for arms. The taxpayer is the first, but not the only victim of armaments nationalism. Will we learn?

    The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated the critical role of transport and logistics. Russian tanks queuing for tens of kilometres outside of Kyiv, having run out of petrol and easy prey for Ukrainian anti-tank weapons, are still in our collective memory. All together, the member states of the European Union would probably be sufficiently equipped to defend against a conventionally much weaker Russia after this conflict. But would we be able to transport French and Spanish equipment in adequate time to where it is needed? Or would bridges be too weak and tunnels too small? This is exactly where the European Union can play a major role with its own infrastructure programmes.

    The unprecedented regime of sanctions, cutting Russian goods, services and financial flows off from international exchanges, essentially in the space of a weekend also raise serious question marks for the future. What if China would indeed attack Taiwan? Sanctions would probably not fall very much behind what was agreed against Russia in order to uphold the international order. Except in that scenario, our economies are much more intertwined. Which risks are we ready to take and which ones need urgent reduction through friendshoring or homeshoring?

    After the war in Ukraine, the United States will have to focus their military efforts on where they are challenged the most, i.e., China and the Pacific. The build-up of an American-led alliance system in Asia is already advancing quickly, involving Japan, Australia and India as key partners. Europeans will have to compensate conventionally in Europe as long as Russia does not give up its imperial ambitions. Poland has already taken major investment decisions, spending at least 3 percent of its GDP on the military. And yes, we do now have a European army: the army of Ukraine defending our freedom and security as well.

    We are turning the page of a 30-year period since the end of the Soviet Union during which the lowest price was the lead paradigm. Companies relocated to wherever the workforce was available, also providing important technology transfers, with little regard for country or system. The access of hundreds of millions of new workers to the global labour market kept inflation low and consumers happy. The authoritarian hardening of both Russia and China, paired with an aggressive stand towards their neighbours, now brings this period to an end. Security has replaced the price paradigm.

    Klaus Welle Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security Ukraine

    Klaus Welle

    When the War in Ukraine Ends…

    Blog - Ukraine

    24 Feb 2023

  • As the war in Ukraine approaches its disheartening one-year mark, much has changed in terms of its outlook and our own perceptions. While leading experts predicted a swift capitulation of the government, Ukraine’s quintessential bend-but-don’t-break resilience has given rise to hope and opportunities. But this has come at a tremendous cost.

    Since the launch of the invasion, the loss of life on both sides has been staggering. The U.S.’s top military advisor, Gen. Mark Milley, has estimated that both Russia and Ukraine have lost around 100,000 soldiers each, in addition to roughly 40,000 Ukraine civilians, with mass graves and other horrors being discovered regularly.

    Of course, in addition to the Ukrainian people’s awe-inspiring sheer will for freedom, impressive ability to quickly learn and wage combined warfare, it is Western armaments that are making the profound difference, most notably from the United States and the UK.

    While the European Union reacted with notable speed and unison (especially by EU standards) and perhaps, somewhere along the way, coming just a little bit closer to defining the age-old riddle of “what is European identity?”, the war would be long lost if not for the military support for Ukraine from the outside world. Reflecting on this, the EU needs to realise that this very moment is pivotal in the war. It needs to invest in its own security by way of investing in and securing Ukraine’s victory, at whatever cost.

    To date, the U.S. has pledged and delivered over 25 billion euros to Ukraine in lethal aid. The UK by comparison, the second-largest single donor, has committed 2.6 billion euros to date. The European Union however, a collective of 27 countries, has committed only 3.6 billion, despite its immediate proximity to the conflict and boasting of being the world’s largest economy.

    The latest saga that especially underlines this unbalanced dichotomy is the months-long debate and final agreement to send tanks. Was it monumental for the EU? Absolutely! But that achievement still has many caveats, most of all being that the actual final arrival of those tanks won’t be for months and will require at least 6-8 weeks of training. Meanwhile, there are already signs of weakening, or the watering down of those pledges, most notably by the Netherlands and Denmark who announced that they will not send Leopard 2’s, all while France remains completely absent on the question of sending its own tanks. It seems that, once again, the EU is moving at its steady pace of two steps forward, one step back.

    The timeline for those tanks and other heavy weapons systems means that Ukraine won’t have this firepower to assist in Russia’s imminent spring offensive, at least in the numbers needed to make an immediate impact, and could also predicate Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia and launch its own planned offensive.

    We are at a point in this war where we are taking Ukraine’s relative success for granted. Yes, Bakhmut holds (for now – but not likely for long) and Ukraine has not only stalled Russia’s invasion, but also made considerable gains to recapture territory. Russia’s next offensive, however, will not be like the others: it will have learned from earlier mistakes, become more desperate for victories and, in the wake of pressure mounting on the battlefield and at home, Russia will attempt to bring the war to a crescendo.

    Collectively the West, but especially the EU, must dramatically pivot from its general reluctance and painstakingly slow conditional military support for Ukraine (e.g., the debates on defensive vs offensive weapons, long-range missiles, and most recently tanks) and offer everything it can to support Ukraine’s victory. Most importantly, this involves the ultimate taboo – sending fighter jets.

    Russia may have demonstrated significant blunders on the battlefield to date, but Vladimir Putin and his generals are well-aware that their window for success is limited and closing. Despite dragging its feet as it approaches each major hurdle, collectively, the West continues to send shipments of more – and superior to Russia’s – military aid. In seeing this sustained support, Russia will become more desperate for gains and will throw everything it has into this offensive, on multiple fronts but in the east especially, perhaps even from the north towards Kyiv in an attempt to yet again force a surrender or bring Ukraine to the negotiating table.

    The sooner the West can send more and, in particular, more-advanced weaponry to Ukraine, the quicker we’ll see the results on the battlefield, bringing the war to an end sooner rather than later. In fact, tipping the scale enough by sending tanks (in the hundreds) and fighter jets, could enable Ukraine to reach striking distance of Crimea – a launching pad for much of Russia’s operations. Retaking Crimea, or even giving the perception that it’s within reach, could instead force Russia to the negotiating table with Ukraine holding most of the bargaining power, and would strike a major blow to Putin’s credibility.

    Regardless of the results from either Russia’s or Ukraine’s next offensive, and their respective abilities to counter them, or how much ground is seized and lost in the process, the next few months are going to be the bloodiest on the battlefield. The West, and particularly the European Union, must seize the moment at this pivotal juncture and overcome its reluctance to fully support Ukraine with all the weapons it needs to defeat Russia. Supporting Ukraine’s defence means investing in our own, after all. And after shielding us from Russia’s onslaught for almost a year, don’t we owe it to Ukraine to do more to end the war and show that we’re all in?

    Gavin Synnott Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is at a Pivotal Junction – It’s Time for the EU to Decide if it’s all in

    Blog - Ukraine

    16 Feb 2023

  • Defence EU-Russia European Union Leopard Leopard Tanks Security Tanks Ukraine
    Defence Dialogue Leopard Tanks Ukraine Russia War

    Defence Dialogue Episode 20 – Leopard Tanks in Ukraine

    Defence Dialogues

    08 Feb 2023

  • The euphoria over the liberation of Kherson, along with hundreds of Ukrainian towns and villages, has been dampened by the fear of winter setting in. The Kremlin has decided to let freezing temperatures break the Ukrainians, rather than using bullets. Russia is focused on destroying power stations and energy grids. Millions of Ukrainians are already without electricity, drinking water or heating. While Russia, unable to sell its gas, is burning it off in open fields, Ukrainians are gripped by the fear of winter creeping in.

    The situation in the Western world is complicated as well, although naturally it could never compare with Ukraine’s. High energy prices, inflation, rising debt and social unrest, are all causes of distress for political leaders, but also among popular masses. These dynamics also create a breeding ground for populists, nationalists, and conspiracy theorists.

    Unsurprisingly, voices calling for a peaceful, diplomatic solution are growing ever louder. The Kremlin’s protagonists, whose idea of peace involves Ukraine’s capitulation or some form of appeasement, are no longer alone in the conversation about a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. President Biden was flustered by President Zelensky’s decision not to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin remains in charge. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that “…Russia’s war with Ukraine will most likely end at the negotiating table….”, reassuringly also saying Ukraine will determine when to start this process.

    President Biden was flustered by President Zelensky’s decision not to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin remains in charge. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also stated that “…Russia’s war with Ukraine will most likely end at the negotiating table….”, reassuringly also saying Ukraine will determine when to start this process.

    What are the implications for us, as EU citizens, and our political leaders? Energy supplies from Russia have fallen, we imposed painful sanctions on Russia, and are helping Ukraine financially as well as by supplying defensive weapons. We are admitting Ukrainian refugees. Will these measures make the Kremlin reconsider its approach towards Ukraine? Will these measures help Ukraine push Russian troops out of its territory and achieve sustainable peace? Or must the EU do more for Ukraine to succeed? Does the EU dispose of a pivotal hold move that would help Ukraine pin its opponent?

    I think the most sensible and indeed necessary step to take is the creation of a common European defence force. A European army represents an instrument that would significantly tip the scales in the right direction. There has never been a more opportune moment coupled with urgent momentum to take this step than there is today.

    Diplomacy is effective when it is backed by real, deployable operational forces. Only real strength from Ukraine and its allies, present in Ukraine, can ultimately persuade the Kremlin to accept a peace settlement sustainable in the long run. Only true military capabilities will help the EU gain the respect and authority without which it is impossible to face today’s security challenges.

    I believe it easy to understand that the military personnel best suited to carry out a stabilising, peacekeeping mission in Ukraine and its vicinity is the UK and the EU. The Kremlin cannot sell the narrative that Europe has a vested interest in a cold war with Russia or in the country’s destruction as successfully as it can sell the narrative of the threat presented by the United States and NATO.

    Finally, there is the factor of necessity. The EU’s security dependence on the United States is no longer defendable or sustainable. It is immoral and naive to expect the US to bear a large cost – both politically and militarily – to defend a community that is more populous than the US and with a comparable level of economic strength. Such asymmetry is simply untenable in the face of the ever more assertive China and of the changing domestic political climate in the US. And, finally, Donald Trump announced he will seek re-election to the US Presidency. I am afraid no one can predict how the US government will act with Donald Trump at the helm again. But even if a different candidate wins, the state of affairs will likely never be the same.

    The EU should stop procrastinating. If anything, we only stand to gain from the creation of a common European army. A common European army would straighten out the feeble European pillar of NATO. Common European armed forces would be capable of more cost-effective procurement than individual member states are. Moreover, there will likely be better compatibility of weapons and equipment procured this way than is currently the case. Only three things are required: less national egoism, a greater sense of responsibility, and more courage on the part of political leaders; at the European, but especially at the national level.

    I’m not a wrestler myself, I enjoy jogging; but I’ve often seen a tie between two wrestlers broken by one bold, well-thought-out hold move. I believe we, the EU, have such a hold move at our disposal.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia NATO Ukraine

    Mikuláš Dzurinda

    Tipping the Scales in Ukraine Requires a United European Army

    Blog - Ukraine

    13 Dec 2022

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    Defence Dialogue Episode 19 – EU-UK Defence Cooperation

    Defence Dialogues

    13 Dec 2022

  • Defence Security Ukraine

    Contemporary regional threats and challenges in Europe


    26 Nov 2022

  • On 17 October, the EU agreed to set up a Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM) in support of Ukraine. It is a response to a request from Ukraine, which has sought EU support for months to help train its armed forces. EUMAM will bring the Union’s military training activities into a new, more geopolitical territory.

    Ukraine originally asked the EU for a military training programme in July 2021, at a time when Moscow had partially withdrawn its forces from the country’s border following an initial military build-up in Spring. While some EU countries backed the request, others (e.g., Italy) at the time saw the deployment of a military training mission to Ukraine as an unnecessary provocation toward Russia.

    After Russia attacked Ukraine in February 2022, mentalities have changed, and earlier sensitivities have faded. The EU has inter alia agreed to provide Ukraine €3.1 billion worth of assistance through the ironically named European Peace Facility to help the country acquire lethal capabilities and other equipment that it needs to defend its sovereignty. Several EU countries (and partners such as the UK and the US) have also launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and provided weapons to the country.

    The agreement to set up EUMAM came after weeks of discussions. The initial political agreement on the mission was reached at the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague. At the time, the European External Action Service envisaged that EUMAM could start “at the end of September/beginning of October”.

    Due to a dispute among EU countries over the mission’s command structure, the establishment of EUMAM was delayed. Hungary did not participate in the final decision, choosing to take advantage of the EU Treaty’s rarely used “constructive abstention” clause (i.e., Article 31(1)). It enables any EU country to abstain from a common foreign, security or defence policy decision, meaning that it will not veto the decision, but neither will it participate in its implementation.

    Once it has been launched, EUMAM will contribute to enhancing the military capability of Ukraine’s armed forces. The mission will provide (1) training to Ukraine’s armed forces personnel at different levels, (2) specialised training, (3) training to the military reserve component of Ukraine’s armed forces (i.e., the Territorial Defence Forces), and (4) coordination for EU countries’ existing Ukraine-related military training efforts.

    More specifically, EUMAM will train around 15,000 Ukrainian troops in two years to boost the country’s ability to defend itself against Russia. According to officials,  12,000 Ukrainians will receive basic military training, while another 2,800 are set to receive specialised training through EUMAM. These initial target figures, as well as EUMAM’s deployment period, can be increased later if necessary.

    Given the ongoing war, EUMAM will not operate in Ukraine itself but within the EU (i.e., in Germany and Poland) until the Council decides otherwise – representing an interesting “first” for land-based EU military operations, which have so far operated exclusively outside the Union. This is because Article 42(1) of the EU Treaty states that the Union may use military and civilian assets in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) “outside the Union”, not within it.

    In practice, the Treaty requirement for CSDP operations and missions to operate “outside the Union” has been withering for several years. The former EU naval operation Sophia as well as IRINI, its ongoing successor, have operated within the territorial waters of EU countries (e.g., Greece, Italy, Malta) while fighting human smuggling and trafficking and enforcing the UN arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean. This shows that CSDP can adapt to Europe’s evolving security environment.

    However, training Ukraine’s armed forces will be a new kind of challenge for CSDP. Through EUMAM, the EU will provide military training to a country fighting an active war against a great power aggressor. This is something that the EU as an organisation has never done or experienced before. In the past, EU military training missions have provided training primarily to the armed forces of countries in the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa that have been fighting terrorists and various types of militia groups. The stakes will be higher in EUMAM’s case.

    This suggests that CSDP is (slowly) becoming more geopolitical in its character. When the EU first began to deploy CSDP missions and operations in the Western Balkans and sub-Saharan Africa in 2003, the Union was highly selective about the conflicts and crises in which it chose to intervene. Early CSDP operations also served the EU’s interests mainly indirectly by, for example, limiting flows of people to the EU from conflict areas by improving safety and security in their areas of operation.

    The EU was also risk-averse, preferring operations and missions that were, in a sense, guaranteed successes. The Union either took over existing NATO operations in the Western Balkans (i.e., operations Concordia and Althea) after the Alliance had already done the hard work of stabilising the countries in question; or the mandates of EU operations were so strictly defined and time-limited (e.g., Operation Artemis, EUFOR RD Congo) that “success” was virtually guaranteed.

    Since the late 2000s, CSDP operations have slowly become more interest-driven in their character. The first genuinely interest-driven CSDP operation has arguably been Atalanta, which was launched in 2008 to fight maritime pirates off the coast of Somalia. This ongoing operation contributed inter alia to the security of Europe’s maritime trade at a time when the global financial crisis was already causing turmoil in markets around the world. Another example is Sophia, through which the EU sought to limit the unregulated flow of people across the Mediterranean in 2015-2020.

    EUMAM, however, will be neither risk-free nor a guaranteed success. It will further increase the EU’s involvement, as an organisation, in the Ukraine war, which may cause Russia to respond. Existing EU military training missions in Mali and the Central African Republic, where Russia is an influential actor, have already suffered from Russian-led disinformation campaigns. The Union must anticipate that EUMAM might also become a Russian target and ensure that sufficient resilient measures will be in place once the mission is launched. Overall, the EU’s decision to establish EUMAM demonstrated the Union’s continued commitment to Ukraine in its time of need. The remaining military-strategic phase of the operation’s planning process should be wrapped up as quickly as possible to ensure that Ukraine can start benefiting from EUMAM’s training activities at the earliest possible moment.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Niklas Nováky

    With the new Ukraine Mission, EU Military Training Becomes More Geopolitical

    Blog - Ukraine

    21 Oct 2022

  • At the 29-30 August informal defence ministerial meeting in Prague, EU countries agreed on the idea of establishing an EU Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine. The mission will help Ukraine’s armed forces meet their training needs and boost their capacities as the country continues to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

    This isn’t the first time that the EU has discussed the establishment of such a mission in the framework of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). In a letter addressed to High Representative Josep Borrell in July 2021, Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministers, Dmytro Kuleba and Oleksii Reznikov, asked the EU for a military training programme to help train Ukrainian officers in response to Russia’s increased military activities along Ukraine’s border.

    At the time, EU countries could not agree on setting up such a mission. While some supported the idea, others saw it as an unnecessary provocation of Russia. The Union eventually decided to enhance Ukraine’s resilience and help strengthen the capacities of its armed forces by adopting a €31 million funding measure through the European Peace Facility (EPF).

    The EPF initially focused on non-lethal support by financing Ukrainian military medical units and field hospitals; engineering, mobility and logistics units, as well as cyber capabilities. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, this funding has broadened in scope to also help Ukraine acquire lethal capabilities and increased to €2.5 billion – half of the EPF’s budget line for 2021–2027.

    In the ensuing months, multiple EU countries have launched national efforts to help train Ukraine’s armed forces and to boost the country’s capacity to defend its sovereignty. These include inter alia Germany, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Spain. In addition, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden are participating in a training programme organised by the UK.

    The EU itself has significant experience in conducting military training and advisory missions. At the time of writing, the Union is conducting four such missions, each of them in Africa: EUTM Mali, EUTM Mozambique, EUTM RCA in the Central African Republic, and EUTM Somalia. Their mandates range from strengthening their host countries’ defence institutions to training their armed forces.

    It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for EU military training missions. EUTM Mali’s credibility was damaged by the August 2020 coup d’état in the country. Both the Mali mission and EUTM RCA have also been forced to suspend some of their activities due to the increased presence of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military entity, in their host countries.

    Despite these challenges, it is generally seen that EU military training missions contribute positively to the effectiveness of their host country’s armed forces, especially when their host countries take political ownership of them. This will certainly be the case with Ukraine, which has expressed very explicitly its desire for an EU military training mission. The challenge is likely to be the unfamiliar context – training soldiers for a country defending its sovereignty against a great power aggressor.

    Fortunately, the EU already has experience in dealing with Ukraine through CSDP. Since 2014, the Union has also been conducting a civilian advisory mission (EUAM) in the country. It assists Ukraine in reforming its civilian security sector to weed out corruption and enhance the rule of law in the country. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, however, EUAM has not been able to fully implement its mandate in Ukraine’s territory.

    So far, the EU has said little about the mandate and scope of the planned Ukraine mission. In Prague, EU defence ministers simply agreed that the mission ‘should build on the existing bilateral [training] activities’ that EU countries have launched since February. It has been suggested that the mission could focus on enhancing the coherence of these activities and boosting coordination between them.

    This means that the EU also needs to coordinate the new mission with key non-EU partners, notably the UK and the US, who are also involved in training to Ukraine’s armed forces. This will be crucial in ensuring that there won’t be unnecessary overlaps between the new mission and the various existing training activities that have been launched since February. The EU mission needs to provide the maximum added value to Ukraine.

    For the mission to have this value, it needs to address the most urgent and concrete training needs of Ukraine’s armed forces. Kyiv has specified that it would like the mission to focus on areas such as medical support, sniper training, and sharing de-mining expertise. While medical support is unlikely to be controversial for EU countries, sniper training, in particular, might face opposition from several capitals.

    Perhaps with this in mind, Borrell has suggested that—in addition to medical support—the EU could help Ukraine in providing protection against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Inevitably, the mandate of the new mission will reflect a political compromise between those EU countries that support it the most and those that are less enthusiastic about it. This has always been the case with CSDP missions because the Union decides on their deployment by unanimity.

    The EU has also expressed that the mission ‘should work at least tentatively in the territory of an EU member state.’ So far, all past and ongoing EU military missions have operated outside the Union’s territory. Article 42(1) of the Treaty on EU (TEU) also specifies that, in the framework of CSDP, the Union can use civilian and military assets ‘on missions outside the Union’.

    The Ukraine mission will therefore require a certain level of creative interpretation of the TEU if it is to become a CSDP mission and if it is to operate from the EU’s territory. The alternative would be to conduct the mission outside the CSDP framework as a type of coalition-of-the-willing or to have it based in a neighbouring non-EU country such as Moldova.

    In the case of the former, the Union could still have a role in the mission by creating a dedicated coordination cell for it, which could be based in the EU Military Staff. It would then mirror the EU’s Coordinated Maritime Presences concept, which enables the Union to coordinate EU countries’ national naval deployments in a given maritime area outside the CSDP framework.

    Given the urgency of Ukraine’s situation, the EU cannot follow its standard long-form CSDP planning process. The next meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the foreign ministers’ forum, will be on 17 October. However, the EU would like to establish and launch the mission before then. Borrell noted on 4 September that the Union could launch it ‘in the coming weeks’ if EU members agree. More concretely, the European External Action Service has envisaged that the mission could start ‘at the end of September/beginning of October’.

    This would be exceptionally fast for a CSDP deployment. In the case of EUTM Mozambique, the most recent EU military training mission, for example, it took the EU seven months to get from initial planning to the launch of the mission. In the case of most other CSDP missions and operations as well, their deployment processes have tended to take months, not weeks.

    To be able to establish and launch the new mission so quickly, the EU will have to use its ‘fast–track’ CSDP planning process. The fast-track process allows the Union to skip certain planning stages to deploy the mission quicker. The EU has already used it to facilitate the deployment of certain CSDP missions and operations. In 2015, for example, the Union used the fast-track process to facilitate the deployment of Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean.

    Furthermore, if the EU wants to launch the operation before the 17 October FAC, it has the options of approving the relevant Council Decision in a different Council configuration (e.g., General Affairs Council, Agriculture and Fisheries Council) or using the ‘written procedure’ in which the Council asks EU countries to approve the launch of the mission in writing. Whatever it decides to do, time is of the essence: Ukraine needs support now.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Niklas Nováky

    The EU Needs to Move Quickly With its Planned Ukraine Training Mission

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    16 Sep 2022

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  • Streaming of our last 2 panels of the first day of our sideline event in Rotterdam:

    5) How Does EU Tech Policy Shape Up for the Digital Decade? Moderator: Dimitar Lilkov, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Mark Boris Andrijanič, Minister for Digital Transformation, Slovenia – Eva Maydell, MEP, GERB, Bulgaria

    6) United for Security and Defence: a Genuine Possibility for the EU? Moderator: Niklas Nováky, Senior Research Officer, Martens Centre Discussants: – Arnaud Danjean, MEP, Les Républicains, France – Henna Virkkunen, MEP, Kansallinen Kokoomus, Finland

    Mark Boris Andrijanič Dimitar Lilkov Henna Virkkunen Niklas Nováky Defence European People's Party Technology

    EPP Congress – Day 1 Afternoon Streaming

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 May 2022

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-Russia NATO

    Defence Dialogue Episode 16 – Finland’s and Sweden’s Path to NATO Membership

    Defence Dialogues

    06 May 2022

  • Tomi Huhtanen Henna Virkkunen Niklas Nováky Defence NATO

    HORIZON 2030: How will the strategic compass impact the future of EU Defence Cooperation?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    28 Apr 2022

  • As Russian forces regroup ahead of their imminent offensive in eastern Ukraine, now is the time for decisive action to force Moscow to re-evaluate the cost of its unprovoked war and any future attacks. Time is of the essence. Russia must be dealt such insurmountable losses, at home and on the battlefield, that it loses the ability to sustain this war.

    As a result of Ukraine’s relative success countering Russian attacks to date, it is estimated that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in just seven weeks, surpassing the death toll of the entire, decade-long, Soviet-Afghan war. Meanwhile, as many as 680 Russian tanks, over 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 150 aircraft have reportedly been destroyed. These significant losses have led some analysists to conclude that Russia’s military is vastly overestimated. This is a misconception. Russian military superiority relies heavily on combined arms warfare, primarily via modernised battalion tactical groups. These formations are designed to take on similarly large battalions, namely those of NATO, combining speed, versatility, and firepower, to effectively steamroll opponents. But they have a major weakness: they lack infantry units to cover their flanks. As a result, hit-and-run guerrilla tactics have proven particularly effective and have played a key role in Ukraine’s ability to inflict heavy losses. This advantage, however, will not last forever.

    After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces will now throw all their might at the already-war-torn eastern portion of Ukraine in a desperate attempt to declare some kind of success. Its military will learn from their mistakes, tighten supply lines and close ranks, with perhaps even more flagrant disregard for civilian lives.

    Meanwhile, since the start of Russia’s war, the EU has moved at warp speed, by EU standards, to improve its security and defence capabilities. It has approved the Strategic Compass, a process initiated in 2020, that sets out the EU’s strategic vision and security objectives over the next 5 to 10 years. Among them, its first-ever rapid deployment contingent, of up to 5,000 troops – a building block that should not be undervalued. At the national level, too, many EU members are granting additional attention to their defence policies at staggering levels. Germany, for example, who has remained almost painstakingly pacifist since joining NATO, announced a historic €100 billion defence budget.

    NATO has also made substantial progress as of late, developing its own defence capacity. Herein lies the largest of many miscalculations made by Putin in this war. In a matter of weeks, he has managed to succeed in what Donald Trump could not achieve in four years: he has made NATO great again. In a sign of the times, even the historically neutral Nordic countries of Finland and Sweden appear set to join as early as this summer.

    For all it’s worth, however, many of these developments, including NATO’s substantial troop increase on the EU’s eastern flank, now at 40,000, will only serve as a deterrent for Russia against EU and/or NATO members, and will not slow Russia’s war in Ukraine, or prevent more atrocities from being committed there.

    What Ukraine needs now, while Russia is regrouping, is more shipments of lethal aid ahead of the decisive battles that lie ahead. Crucial to Ukraine’s successful guerrilla tactics have been the man-portable air-defence systems supplied by Western allies, such as the Javelin, NLAW, and Stinger, which have denied Russia air superiority and stalled potential ground assaults. Additionally, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone – which will likely become the hottest-selling weapon system on the market following its demonstrated field success – has enabled Ukraine to destroy entire columns of vehicles from afar, coordinate effective artillery barrages and monitor Russian troop movements.

    But these weapons will not be enough for what could be the deciding chapter of this war. Ukraine desperately needs shipments of heavy weapons before Russia launches its next assault. Guerrilla tactics alone will not stall Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern landscape, which is dominated by open fields. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has echoed this call, indirectly clashing with Chancellor Olaf Scholz who has been accused of delaying deliveries of tanks to Ukraine. Czechia and Slovakia have already responded, along with pledges by Poland and the Baltic nations, and an additional $800 million in US support. Other EU members must follow suit while this equipment can still play a deciding factor.

    Finally, what Ukraine needs most is for the EU to stop financing this war for Russia, effectively enabling it to sustain the conflict. The impressive sum that the EU has already committed in military aid – €1 billion with possibly another €500 million in the works – is insufficient. Though this feat marks the first time that the EU has supplied lethal weaponry to a third country, that amount is dwarfed by the €35 billion that it has paid to Russia since the start of the war for its energy imports – nearly Russia’s entire annual defence budget.

    Ultimately, Ukraine’s fight is our fight, as Europeans and proponents of democracy. The window for the EU to have a meaningful impact in the battles to come is small. While Russia regroups, we must step up support for Ukraine, for the sake of their future and our own. As Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba put it, “Either you help us now, and I am speaking about days … or your help will come too late.”

    Gavin Synnott Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    The Clock is Ticking – Ukraine Needs Urgent Support Ahead of Russia’s Next Offensive

    Blog - Ukraine

    14 Apr 2022

  • Mikuláš Dzurinda Andrius Kubilius Jamie Shea Niklas Nováky Defence NATO Security Ukraine

    Putin’s War Against Ukraine and the New Paradigms of European Defence Cooperation

    Live-streams - Multimedia - Ukraine

    31 Mar 2022

  • Loredana Teodorescu Defence Gender Equality Ukraine

    Women in Conflicts

    Her and EU

    18 Mar 2022

  • Anna Nalyvayko Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Voices from Ukraine: Frontline Stories

    Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine

    08 Mar 2022

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    Defence Dialogue Episode 15 – The impact of the Ukraine War on Europe’s Strategic Culture

    Defence Dialogues - Ukraine

    07 Mar 2022

  • Andrius Kubilius Peter Hefele Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.4 with Andrius Kubilius, MEP

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks - Ukraine

    05 Mar 2022

  • Vladimir Milov Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    Interview with Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition leader and Research Associate, Martens Centre

    Multimedia - Other videos - Ukraine

    04 Mar 2022

  • Jolyon Howorth Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    #ComeTogether – EP. 6 with David McAllister and Jolyon Howorth

    Multimedia - Other videos

    04 Mar 2022

  • 1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?

    John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland: The Russian end goal is to force Ukraine into a Russian-dominated economic union that would be incompatible with a trade agreement with the EU. This would require a new government in Kyiv and a new Ukrainian constitution. The Ukrainian armed forces would be reduced, but border adjustments may not be crucial for Russia. This outcome would threaten the integrity and effective sovereignty of several EU and NATO states. It is hard to say what the next Russian goal will be and how firm NATO guarantees would be in practice, given the state of US public opinion and pacifism in some EU countries.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: Putin’s end game was clear from day one. He cannot accept any liberal democratic transformation in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Particularly in Ukraine, the largest and strategically most important ex-Soviet state. Successful transformation in Ukraine means the end of Putin’s dictatorship. It would also be proof to Russians that such a transition is possible, and can brings liberties and improve standards of living for all citizens. Putin believes, like some far-right leaders in Europe do, that the West is immoral and in political decline. They think the future is in authoritarian regimes built on military power; and the Tsarist empire is back. What Gorbachev destroyed, Putin resurrects. He will establish a neo-East Germany in parts of conquered Ukraine, which will take place in the next few weeks, if not days.

    Ivan Mikloš, former Minister of Finance of Slovakia: Nobody knows what Putin’s end-goal is. Everything he’s done over the last few days was so irrational that it’s complicated to make any prognosis of the possible outcomes. Another factor is the unreliability of what Putin says. Last week, he promised not to invade to Ukraine, telling this to Macron, Scholz, and other Western leaders, and then did it anyways.

    2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?

    Bruton: There has been a visible lack of coordination in the West. The idea of keeping Russia in the international payment system SWIFT, while excluding Iran, is incoherent. But to be fair, this is a shock, so some confusion is understandable, but it should end now.

    Bielecki: The West was deaf and blind to a long list of Russian so-called operations. Just remember Chechnya, Transnistria, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine. That includes Maidan and Donetsk, Crimea, the downing of flight MH17.  Operations in Londongrad are also important to mention, beginning with the financing of local politics (the British are starting to speak about it!). There were assassinations, the acquisition of thousands of properties, massive sales of resident visas for cash in the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg, etc. Then, the separate case of Germany, with a long history of support for Russia and hostility towards Ukraine.

    Mikloš: The early lesson is that these kind of irresponsible dictators only understand and respect power and strength.

    3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?

    Bruton: The EU should agree to exclude Russia from SWIFT. It makes no sense for individual heads of government to talk to Russia while others refuse to do so; there should be a single messenger and a single message.

    Bielecki: I wish to be crystal clear about this final question; I have signed many publications and appeals, including one from our GLOBSEC, so I will end with a basic question. With Putin openly speaking about Clausewitz’s famous dictum, how long can the West continue magical thinking? “Unless you are ultimately prepared to resort to force, dialogue or negotiations are only a postponement of the other side’s aggression.”

    Mikloš: By imposing the strongest possible sanctions, including excluding Russia from SWIFT, freezing the accounts and assets of Russian companies and citizens in NATO and EU member states, freezing the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank deposited in Western Central Banks and imposing personal sanctions against Putin personally.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion

    Other News - Ukraine

    25 Feb 2022

  • 1. The Russian violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty has been described as a turning point in European history; war has returned to our continent. How do you view the long-term implications of Russia’s aggression?

    Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition Leader and Martens Centre Research Associate: Much depends on further developments of the situation – will Putin stop at the current line of conflict or further the military invasion of Ukraine, and how the West will react. However, one thing is clear and very concerning: Putin has developed an appetite for permanent destabilisation and the escalation of tensions – which is not only limited to Ukraine – and his regime, in its present shape, remains a fundamental threat to European and global security. Putin’s recent speeches and historic rants, and Monday’s broadcast of the meeting of Sovbez (the National Security Council, the highest authority which currently de facto rules Russia), demonstrate that the entire Russian leadership is not inclined to adhere to the international rules-based order, and is ready and willing to act in a disruptive manner, not just with regard to Ukraine. In order to contain Putin’s permanent destabilisation policy, a strong deterrence strategy is required.

    Michael Benhamou, Martens Centre Research Associate: Russian troops entering Eastern Ukraine marks the return of a high-intensity military scenario not witnessed since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Sadly for us Europeans, there are two important differences: [1] the United States will not come to the rescue this time, with President Biden having confirmed the power shift to Asia launched by Presidents Obama and Trump.

    [2] European Armies cannot cope with such a conventional war scenario on their own continent (i.e. infantry vs infantry). This is firstly due to military budgets, especially in Central and Northern Europe, having decreased considerably over the past decades; secondly because post-9/11 wars have driven our soldiers towards urban combat and counter-terrorism – a long shot from classic warfare.

    To put it differently, polls show the citizens of Sweden and Germany to be most opposed to Russia’s behaviour (ECFR); but they also vote for politicians who, for the most part, disdain the purpose of the military. This contradiction is being exploited right now.

    2. As a follow-up, do you think this situation fundamentally imperils the liberal international order (also taking into the positions of countries such as China and Turkey)?

    Milov: Of course, Putin’s moves show deep disregard to the international rules-based order, and disrespect even to his own commitments – he recently praised the Minsk agreements as “the only possible solution” to the Donbas conflict, only to throw them into the dustbin just a few days later. Putin is a dangerous player with total disregard for international rules and Russia’s international commitments, as his record over the years and the very recent development prove.

    Benhamou: On that topic, the entourage of Vladimir Putin has indeed developed a sophisticated anti-liberal critique since the end of the 1990s. A few years ago, I remember reading about Putin’s top adviser Alexandre Dugin’s interpretation of German jurist Carl Schmitt for instance. Schmitt was a former Nazi party member who famously wrote in The Concept of the Political (1932) that “a nation who does have the force or the will to engage in wars does not mean the end of the political order; it simply means the end of a weak nation.”

    This Russian mindset is underpinned by the rise of conflict in Europe’s periphery and beyond. And yes it is opposed to the victorious post-World War II model – that of America’s open markets competition and of the sense that cooperation is more beneficial than systemic mistrust – with the European Union being the best example of this choice. Putin wants to take us back to inter-state zero-sum games that are easier to play (for them), unreasonably passionate, but also more unpredictable.

    To face this challenge, citizens of democracies need to get rid of their apathy. French philosopher Tocqueville wrote beautifully about the egoism of property-obsessed democrats in times of peace, followed by their awakening and cohesion when the threat approaches. Will his prediction prove to be right again?

    3. Putin’s televised address on Monday evening was a rambling attempt to negate Ukraine’s right to exist and justify Russian aggression. Has Putin recently become disconnected from certain geopolitical realities, or has this always been the case and is only now more apparent?

    Milov: Putin is not disconnected from reality, he deliberately tries to wittingly construct a parallel propaganda reality to justify his actions, and he doesn’t care about the truth and facts. I’m sure he’s aware that his interpretation of history has little basis in reality – for instance, he says that “Khrushchev had for some reasons taken Crimea from Russia and handed it to Ukraine”, but he must be fully aware that things have in a totally different manner and it was not Khrushchev, there are plenty of official Soviet documents actually explaining the long discussion about the need to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR for objective reasons. Putin cannot not know that – but he’s obviously lying to the public, consciously and deliberately, following the Goebbels playbook step-by-step.

    Benhamou: Yes, as February 2022 ends, there seems to be a lack of logic in Russia’s short-term goals: annexing Ukrainian provinces that it already de facto controls – provinces with limited strategic value – and all these theatrics at the cost of renewed sanctions, economic difficulties, increased support for NATO amongst Ukrainians…

    But we don’t have the whole game plan. And Moscow has some serious cards in their hands too: time, geography, overwhelming force, gas, increased wheat production enabled by climate change. Yet all these cards would be pointless if China ends up swallowing the whole. In business terms, we’d say that Russia’s alliance with Europe would bear more “complementary advantages” than going East – with each side possessing skills the other does not.

    4. Western sanctions are on the way, Germany has just announced the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and Russian stocks and the ruble have already crumbled. Will economic pressure be the undoing of Russia’s military endeavour?

    Milov: Yes, the Russian economy will suffer greatly from another round of Putin’s aggressive foreign policies. Russia is still heavily dependent on consumer imports, and the depreciation of the ruble further hits the consumer purchasing power of ordinary Russians (which had reduced by about 10-15% since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine in 2014). Even the import substitution efforts backfire, as they only lead to the monopolisation of industries and price growth, further reducing Russians’ real incomes, as proved by the experience of import substitution in food and agricultural sectors since 2014. Russia’s large corporations and its banks, the lifeblood of Putin’s economic system, will be further disconnected from the global markets and the financial system, pushing Russia from a globally-oriented player towards an Iranian-style semi-autarky. Public opinion polling for Putin is already not so bright, because Russians are tired of economic woes caused by his geopolitical adventures, and of living in a ‘besieged fortress’ mode. New economic sanctions caused by the occupation of Donbas mean serious costs for Putin – in case Western sanctions will be serious enough to meet expectations.

    Benhamou: I am not a Russia expert, and I have never been to Russia myself. But the resilience of Russia’s population is multi-secular, as is their acceptance of authority. As for Nord Stream 2, it is not a cancellation but a suspension as far as I understand. The infrastructure in the Baltics will not be destroyed and can be reactivated at any time!

    Political winds only need to blow a little for that to happen – just look at rising oil prices, rising electricity prices impacting all families, America’s rapid exit, potential wars in the Middle East that Europeans will not be able to handle on their own… “Patience”, Putin will tell his audience. Patience.

    We owe it to the Ukrainians to tell them the truth: they are alone right now. No Europeans will die for them. And we need to rethink the balance between our liberal values and the return of violence in order to be ready for that next time.

    Vladimir Milov Michael Benhamou Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Crisis

    Other News - Ukraine

    23 Feb 2022

  • Michael Gahler Constantine Arvanitopoulos Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security

    #ComeTogether – EP. 5 with Michael Gahler and Constantine Arvanitopoulos

    Multimedia - Other videos

    24 Jan 2022

  • Niklas Nováky Nathan Shepura Defence Security

    #ComeTogether – Ep. 4 with Radosław Sikorski and Niklas Nováky

    Multimedia - Other videos

    20 Dec 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Defence Security

    2022: the Year of European Defence?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    15 Dec 2021

  • Tomi Huhtanen Vladimir Milov Defence EU-Russia NATO Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.3 with Vladimir Milov

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks - Ukraine

    10 Dec 2021

  • Álvaro de la Cruz Michael Benhamou Defence NATO Security

    The Week in 7 Questions with Michael Benhamou

    Multimedia - Other videos

    03 Dec 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Defence NATO Security

    Defence Dialogue Episode 14 – The Helsinki Spirit Initiative. A chat with Henri Vanhanen

    Defence Dialogues

    02 Dec 2021

  • Michael Benhamou Sandra Pasarić Defence Security

    #ComeTogether – Ep. 3 with Matej Tonin and Michael Benhamou

    Multimedia - Other videos

    29 Oct 2021

  • Greek-French relations have deep roots. They were not always smooth and easy. However, the ties between both countries are based on a mutual cultural and historical appreciation. In modern times, this appreciation was shown on the tumultuous night of 24 July 1974, following the fall of the military junta, when the iconic Greek statesman, Konstantinos Karamanlis, landed at Athens Airport to restore democracy. The plane that carried Karamanlis from Paris was provided by the then-President of the French Republic, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Since then, the slogan “Grèce-France-Alliance” depicts the close historical, cultural, and diplomatic relations between the two countries and peoples.

    On 28 September 2021, almost half a century later, a landmark defence deal signed by the two countries at the Élysée Palace reaffirming that the Greco-French alliance is stronger than ever. According to Emmanuel Macron, it “strengthens cooperation in the area of security and safeguards the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both countries”. This strategic partnership, besides the Greek purchase of 3+1 French frigates (costing 3bn Euros), includes a mutual defence assistance clause in case of attack against the signatories. 

    It is worth mentioning that this is the first time in history that Greece signs a bilateral agreement with a clause of mutual military assistance with one of the great powers. This shows not only the very good relations between the two countries, but also their shared views on a series of political and military issues.

    Of course, one should not ignore the diplomatic and geopolitical realities behind this agreement. The discussions lasted for more than 18 months. On one hand, after a decade of military stagnation due to economic crisis, and under the pressure of Turkey’s aggression on land, air, and sea from Evros to the East Mediterranean, Greece felt the pressing need to modernise its military forces.

    On the other hand, the launch of AUKUS exasperated France and led President Macron to seek a solution that would soothe impressions and allow the French military industry to recover some of the 34 billion euros lost after the cancellation of the submarines deal with Australia.

    The Franco-Greek strategic partnership has dual importance. It touches upon national and wider European interests.

    The weaponising of immigrants and refugees at Evros’ borders by Turkey in March 2021, the military standoff of the previous summer, and the violation of the UN Resolutions in Cyprus pushed the Greek government to announce an ambitious armaments programme. This includes, among others, the purchase of 24 French Rafale jets, the current deal for 3+1 Belharra (FDI) frigates, and the possibility of 3+1 Gowind corvettes for the Greek Navy, with a delivery date before 2027. As PM Mitsotakis mentioned, the Paris agreement is not antagonising Greek-American relations. It rather works complementary to the update of the MDCA (Mutual Defence Cooperation Agreement), expected to be signed with a five-year duration in mid-October.

    The target for the Greeks is clear. The economic crisis and the rapid development of the Turkish military industry changed the balance of power between the two shores of the Aegean in favour of Ankara. The gradual strengthening of the Greek armed forces, accompanied with the French military shield, increases the prospects of deterrence and security in the Southeast borders of the European Union. Furthermore, it satisfies a basic tenet of international relations: si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.

    The European Union, according to President Macron, should stop being naïve and be ready to defend itself when other powers harden their stance. The Franco-Greek agreement marks one of the first tangible step of the highly-touted EU Strategic Autonomy, and as such, it should be welcomed. On the eve of the French Presidency of the EU, two of the concept’s strongest supporters join forces in an unprecedented act that expands their military and diplomatic links in the wider Mediterranean region and the Sahel; areas in which the US seems to have left space for other powers to grow and feel the gap of its absence. The EU may not be ready to act as one when it comes to confronting its rivals; but having two of its nations lead the way by strengthening cross-continental military cooperation is a clear positive, not a drawback. Additionally, this move does not hinder the capacity of EU nations, or indeed the EEAS, to conduct traditional diplomacy. In other words, the EU has a unique opportunity to surf the wave of American scale-back in the region and increase its imprint as a promising hard-power world actor. This opportunity should be seized without delay.

    In a continuously changing global environment, gravitating towards a new international order characterised by revisionist powers and unusual diplomatic and political alliances, Europe should not continue playing a mediating role, promoting only its soft-power. Autocratic regimes and rogue states disregard traditional diplomatic channels and pursue projecting their own power. Eventually, the EU must develop its own, autonomous military capacities and begin speaking with one voice in foreign matters. It is no longer sufficient to be an economic giant, we should be able to protect our sovereignty, defend our interests, and secure our future through reliable, deployable, and effective EU armed forces.  

    Panos Tasiopoulos Eleftheria Katsi Theo Larue Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    Eleftheria Katsi

    Theo Larue

    Sous le Ciel de Paris – A Promising Agreement is Born


    01 Oct 2021

  • Gavin Synnott Niklas Nováky Defence Security Transatlantic relations

    The Week in 7 Questions with Niklas Nováky

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Oct 2021

  • Common festivities cancelled, French ambassadors recalled from Washington and Canberra, and an EU-Australia trade deal on ice: France’s righteous wrath is understandable, but only partly justified. Moreover, coming on the heels of the Transatlantic spat over the Afghanistan withdrawal, this latest crisis among allies not only reconfirms the urgent question many Europeans asked themselves after the last US election: What if the Republicans return to power in 2024? It actually produces an even more urgent question: How Trumpist is Joe Biden? And is this the final wake-up call for the EU’s strategic autonomy?

    The art of (cancelling) the deal

    The submarine deal was fraught with problems from its beginning in 2016. That refers not only to the predictable delays and cost blowouts on the side of the French contractor, Naval Group, but also to changing strategic requirements in the Indo-Pacific, and above all, the French inability to come to grips with the propulsion system – on top of data hacks on their side. The problem (and the ineptitude in Washington) was that the announcement of the cancellation came together with the formation of AUKUS, the Australia-UK-US cooperation agreement on sharing state-of-the-art military technology (including on submarines, replacing the French contract) and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific – vis-à-vis an increasingly aggressive China, of course. (By the way, to call this a military alliance is a bit of an exaggeration. NATO is an alliance; this here is a cooperation agreement with geopolitical implications). The fact that France, like other European allies of the US, had not known about this agreement in the making in past months, was the real ‘stab in the back’, to use French Foreign Minister Le Drian’s words. To unnecessarily alienate an ally with ambitions and presence in the Indo-Pacific is indeed counterproductive, especially if the priority of priorities for the US, and one of the last remaining bipartisan points of consensus along the Potomac, is countering the rising Chinese influence.  

    When US strategic disinterest meets with European strategic ineptitude

    The picture would, however, be incomplete without the Biden administration’s frustration, actually a bipartisan exasperation, with European allies who keep postulating their ‘strategic autonomy’ from the US while still bringing very little to the table in terms of real military capabilities. A strategic autonomy that so far mainly manifests itself in pushing projects such as Nord Stream 2 and telling the world that Europe refuses to ‘take sides’ in the ‘Cold War 2.0’ between the US and China. And to underscore this, the EU concluded an investment deal with China without even consulting with the US, despite Washington’s very kind request to do so before signing. This is happening in a situation in which the Biden administration clearly and repeatedly said that the overriding conflict of the future is the one between liberal democracy and a new authoritarianism, whose cheerleader is now the Chinese Communist Party. American strategic disinterest in Europe meets with European strategic impotence and irresponsibility: Two mutually reinforcing trends. And a toxic combination for the West, and for democrats worldwide.

    Breaking the vicious circle

    Ending the Transatlantic vicious circle begins with European strategic responsibility, not autonomy. The latter is not on the cards, full stop. To spell it out: Even if we had an ‘entry force’ and several battlegroups combat-ready for interventions in emergencies like the one in Kabul, or contingencies in the neighbourhood (which is a worthy goal), there is no way such a Europe without the US could defend itself, or deter an aggressive authoritarian power such as Russia on all levels, from hybrid to conventional, to tactical nuclear and strategic nuclear. Rather than strategic autonomy, which is anathema to Eastern flank countries in EU and NATO, strategic responsibility should be our ambition. And that means spending more on defence, developing intervention capacities in the EU’s neighbourhood, strengthening the European pillar in NATO, and ceasing to ostentatiously sit on the fence between China and the US. Instead, while recognising that EU and US approaches to China will never be identical, we need to seek common ground and identify areas of strategic consensus, for example on supply chains, export of key technologies, a common pushback against Beijing’s abuse of our open markets, its political blackmail and human rights violations, as well as a concerted effort to support democratic governments and movements across the world. Some willingness to compromise with the US on trade and technology would also help.

    If the EU is to demonstrate real added value to the US as allies, two nations in particular have to grow up on this side of the Pond: France needs to let go of delusions of grandeur, and Germany needs to get real about contributing to Europe’s security with more hard power – which is always necessary for soft power to work.

    Roland Freudenstein China Defence EU-US Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Donald J. Biden? How Europe’s Indignation Reveals as Much About Us as About America


    21 Sep 2021

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech has become an established news item, resonating across European media. The 2021 speech had a strong focus on recovery and the last remaining steps to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Structurally, her State of the Union speech was very similar to last year’s, starting with a short reference to the ‘Big Picture’, followed by a list of various Commission initiatives, often with the promise of creating new tools, with budgetary backing. This year’s speech even ended on a similar note as last year, with a ‘human dimension story’. 2020 referenced young girls playing tennis in Liguria, while this year it was an Italian Paralympic gold medallist.

    Rather than a speech on the State of the Union, the EU, its long-term vision and its upcoming challenges, the speech became an opportunity for the Commission President to market ongoing initiatives and launch new ones, focusing on the EU’s internal policies.

    But although the speech’s focus was mostly internal, it reflects a desire for the European Union to become (yes, really) a true global player.

    Since external strength comes from within, and no doubt driven by the momentum created by the situation in Afghanistan, von der Leyen logically followed up by underlining the importance of being ambitious in security and defence cooperation, discussing the plan to convene a Summit on European Defence under the French EU Council Presidency.

    However, there is currently no lack of different cooperation mechanisms in the area of security. Instead, the challenge is a lack of motivation on the part of EU member states to engage and invest in their own defence capacity, without even thinking about cooperation at the European level. On the one hand, replacing existing progress by launching a new process with fresh expectations to be fulfilled can be counterproductive. Still, a Summit can create political momentum for further development.

    Another initiative mentioned in the State of the Union speech, although perhaps surprising, is the idea of a Global Gateway strategy, a kind of response to China’s New Silk Road, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The strategy seeks to create partnerships with countries around the world, creating investments in quality infrastructure, connecting goods, peoples, and services around the world to build a worldwide brand. It sounds big and ambitious, but the obvious question is, where is the money?

    China’s BRI is estimated to involve around $2.5 trillion at the moment. Undoubtedly, the EU will aim to use similar financial leverage as with the ‘Juncker Plan’, but securing funding for massive global infrastructure projects outside the EU’s territory and matching China will prove to be a challenge. However, a key difference between both projects is that the EU’s Global Gateway effort should be based on important EU values and aim to build genuine, mutually beneficial partnerships, as opposed to China’s strategy of debt trapping and subsequent diplomatic coercion, which are the backbone of the New Silk Road.

    Currently, the EU’s external force leans heavily on its economic force and its trade ties. The “Brussels effect” makes the EU a leading regulatory force, and the current woes of the US and China put the EU in a unique position to become a promoter of global trade. It is therefore almost surprising that the State of the Union speech did not allow room for a more elaborate discussion on the EU’s role within the global economic patterns and EU trade.

    Naturally, one could claim that due to COVID-19, global trade is still shellshocked. However, global trade and business are recovering much faster than expected. During the COVID crisis, the prognosis was that supply chains would be radically changed after the pandemic. As it turns out, we’ve instead witnessed increasing demand and prices, with many companies basically returning to the same production models. Globalisation as a trend will bounce back.

    The European Union will not be able to project its power in the same way as big, global sovereign states. It originated in multilateralism and cooperation, holding weaknesses other global entities do not – but also possessing strengths others are lacking.

    While the defence and security pillars are essential for a strong EU in the future, development is slow, and thus its primary strength remains centred on its economy. As we wait for next year’s State of the Union speech and its own human story ending, there are equal expectations on how the EU will aim to claim its place and, through its multilateral dimensions, shape the future of the global economy and trade.

    Photo Credits: EPP Group in the European Parliament

    Tomi Huhtanen China Defence European Union Globalisation

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Searching for the EU’s Global Role – State of the Union Speech


    15 Sep 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence Islam

    Defence Dialogue Episode 13 – The Afghanistan Crisis and the EU’s Security and Defence Policy

    Defence Dialogues

    15 Sep 2021

  • Tomi Huhtanen Defence European Union Transatlantic relations

    EIF 21 Panel 4 – A Geopolitical European Union: Towards Greater Autonomy?

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    30 Jun 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence Transatlantic relations

    Defence Dialogue Episode 12 – The EU’s Quest For Greater Resilience

    Defence Dialogues

    15 Jun 2021

  • Discussing European Security and Defence with the Private Sector Perspective.

    Niklas Nováky Defence

    Defence Dialogue Episode 11 – with Sir Martin Donnelly

    Defence Dialogues

    01 Apr 2021

  • Since 2016, cooperation between the EU and NATO has increased significantly. The two organisations have agreed a common set of 74 proposals, which they are in the process of implementing. The proposals seek to boost EU-NATO cooperation in the areas of countering hybrid threats, operations, cyber security, defence capabilities, defence industry and research, and exercises. However, there is a sense that relatively little has been achieved beyond boosting staff-to-staff interactions and policy coordination. Both the EU and NATO are also looking to rethink their role in the field of security and defence, the EU through its ongoing Strategic Compass process, and NATO through the forthcoming Strategic Concept process. These related and somewhat overlapping processes also create a rare window of opportunity to think about the future of EU-NATO cooperation.

    Thus, this event will focus on questions such as: What has EU-NATO cooperation concretely achieved since 2016? Could EU-NATO cooperation be strengthened even further? Would it be possible to create synergies between the EU’s Strategic Compass process and NATO’s upcoming Strategic Concept process?

    Niklas Nováky Jamie Shea Defence

    EU-NATO Cooperation: Taking Stock and Assessing the Future

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    01 Apr 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz COVID-19 Defence

    Defence Dialogue Episode 10 – Vaccine Diplomacy and Europe’s ‘Soft’ Power

    Defence Dialogues

    10 Mar 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-Russia

    Defence Dialogue Episode 9 – What should Europe learn from Borrell’s visit to Moscow?

    Defence Dialogues

    22 Feb 2021

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-US Transatlantic Transatlantic relations US

    Defence Dialogue Episode 8 – A Reboosted Transatlantic Alliance?

    Defence Dialogues

    03 Feb 2021

  • Former NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary-General, Jamie Shea, is this time’s surprise guest. Watch him respond to 7 questions on EU’s Strategic Autonomy & Defence, Turkey, and even an episode of The Crown.

    Roland Freudenstein Jamie Shea Defence

    The Week in 7 Questions with Jamie Shea

    Multimedia - Other videos

    11 Dec 2020

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence

    Defence Dialogue Episode 7 – The Strategic Compass

    Defence Dialogues

    07 Dec 2020

  • The EU is about to embark on two processes that seek to boost the Union’s ability to manage and solve some of the biggest challenges it is currently facing. These are the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and the development of the new Strategic Compass. The Conference will tackle major societal challenges such as climate change and the economy and it will also involve civil society actors.

    The Strategic Compass, on the other hand, will focus more narrowly on security and defence issues to highlight common threats and challenges and to facilitate the emergence of a shared European strategic culture. However, the Conference will also tackle security-related topics such as the EU’s technological sovereignty and security of supply. This event will discuss what both the Conference and the development of the Strategic Compass mean for the future of the EU’s security and defence policy.

    Jamie Shea Niklas Nováky Defence Future of Europe Security

    The Future of Europe & the Strategic Compass: Implications for the EU’s Security and Defence Policy

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    03 Dec 2020

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence

    Defence Dialogue with commentary from Álvaro de la Cruz (Episode 6)

    Defence Dialogues

    27 Nov 2020

  • Álvaro de la Cruz Niklas Nováky Defence

    Defence Dialogue with commentary from Álvaro de la Cruz (Episode 5)

    Defence Dialogues

    11 Nov 2020

  • It’s been said after the US election that if outer space could transmit sound waves, someone standing on the surface of the moon could have heard a thunderous sigh of relief from Europe – and most of the world – on 7 November, around midday Eastern Time. And sure enough, immediately the debate started whether across the Atlantic, we will just see an improvement in tone, or whether there would be substantial Transatlantic warming. This debate overlapped with another controversy: Whether Europe would have to decouple entirely (sooner or later) – or make a stronger contribution in order to reinforce the relationship and make it sustainable for the future.

    Neither of these debates is entirely new. But the change in the White House is adding a new salience to them. This op-ed argues that the chance for a Transatlantic Renewal goes far beyond a warmer atmosphere between Europe and North America, and that decoupling from the US is neither possible nor desirable. In contrast, the chances for Europe taking on more responsibility, and thereby strengthening the Transatlantic partnership and alliance, are better than at any point in the last 20 years. Let’s take a look at the areas where consensus is relatively easy and success probable, the fields where things will be more difficult but success equally indispensable, and finally at the mid-term future of the relationship.

    Improvements ahead

    Fighting COVID together will be the most immediate joint priority, and the news about a vaccine enhances the chances for this to bear fruit very soon. The Paris Climate Agreement is the other issue where cooperation will replace mutual frustration very soon. Biden’s announcement of an American return to the Agreement is great news. Global institutions should be the next area where US isolationism will make way for a constructive approach: re-engaging with the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization while closely cooperating with Europeans to make both fit for the 21st century, and opposing the advance of authoritarianism. On many regional issues, from Russia to the Middle East, cooperation will qualitatively improve. Finally, Biden’s announced global ‘Alliance of Democracies’ should be greeted with enthusiasm by the EU. The only way for liberal democracies to push back against an increasing authoritarian pressure whose global cheerleader is now the Chinese Communist Party, is to cooperate, coordinate, and exchange best practices, ranging from fighting hostile influence to global democracy support.

    Thornier issues

    Three big topics will require more effort: trade, defence, and China. Biden/Harris will have the Republicans breathing down their necks on all three. Nevertheless, the chances of a new Transatlantic deal on trade and investment are good. Remember, TTIP failed not primarily in the US, but in Europe. Defence may well be the most persistent issue where, after an initial exchange of niceties, the risk of protracted US frustration is highest. Post-COVID, those EU countries which haven’t reached the two-percent-of GDP goal in defence spending of 2014 are unlikely to reach it anytime soon. Europeans within NATO should focus on continuous nuclear sharing, and assume tasks like naval and airspace surveillance and better airlift capacities, also improving their ability to secure Europe’s neighbourhood without always calling Uncle Sam for help. On China, finally, Europe and the US may not be able to agree on an identical strategy, but they can now very well formulate a common core agenda which allows for different approaches while remaining in coordination. Germany will have to rethink its transactional approach and somehow drop Huawei out of its 5G network building, if values mean anything to us. What will be decisive is the common definition of China as a systemic rival, and future competition with China not as a ‘geopolitical’ conflict but as part of a global struggle between liberal democracy and authoritarianism.

    Why time is of the essence

    Joe Biden will, in all likelihood, remain a one-term President simply for age reasons. But he is currently the most Atlanticist powerful Democrat now. Already Kamala Harris – from California – has a much more ‘Pacific’ outlook, and less experience in, and therefore attachment to, Transatlantic affairs. True, the new administration’s foreign policy will be dominated by ‘2021 Democrats’, who believe in global democracy and want the US to re-engage. This cannot be said about elements of the left wing of the Democratic Party, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is predicted by some to have a bright future in US politics. And then there is the scenario of a continuously Trumpist Republican Party coming to power in 2028, maybe in 2024, and possibly gaining influence as soon as the 2022 midterm elections – but in any case, remaining a national-populist working-class party, powerful even in opposition. All this means that Europeans and the Biden administration have to seize the moment now, and create a framework in which Europe proves its added value to the US much more clearly, also in the future – and which even less internationalist American leaders will hesitate to destroy.

    Above all, Europeans now have to beware of three things: complacency, delusion, and defeatism. It would be complacent to lean back and trust the warmer Transatlantic tone to turn into substance by itself. That would backfire badly. We have to put meat on the bone ourselves; no one will do it for us. Delusionary is the idea that Europeans can guarantee their own security and prosperity without a strong Transatlantic bond anytime soon – and that means for decades. The risk of defeatism, finally, lurks in a cash-strapped post-COVID Europe aware of its shortcomings, unwilling to invest in any alliance, and therefore incapable of standing up to autocrats. It would mean burying the hatchet with Putin, the Chinese Communist Party, and their fanbase inside the EU, because all other options are thought to be exhausted. In other words, the officially certified end of Europe, as a community based on values. This bleak scenario can only be avoided in a clear-sighted, determined, and concerted effort to ‘grab history by the coattails’, as Helmut Kohl would have put it, and work on a Transatlantic Renewal now.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence EU-US Leadership Transatlantic

    Roland Freudenstein

    Let’s Seize the Chance for a Transatlantic Renewal!


    10 Nov 2020

  • Since 2009, the EU has had a mutual aid and assistance clause in its founding treaty. This Article 42(7) provides that if an EU country is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, its partners have an obligation to aid and assist it by all the means in their power—an obligation that is binding on all EU countries. So far, Article 42(7) has been invoked only once by France following the 2015 Paris terror attacks.

    However, multiple EU countries still have questions regarding the article’s scope, the type of assistance that could be provided or received under it, and its relationship to NATO’s Article 5. As Article 42(7) will also be discussed during the development of the EU’s forthcoming Strategic Compass, this event will explore questions such as: (1) What do different EU countries think of Article 42(7)? (2) What counts as ‘armed aggression’ under the article? (3) What does Article 42(7)’s aid and assistance obligation actually mean?

    Niklas Nováky Defence

    Online Event ‘Perspectives on the EU’s Defence Clause: How Should it be Developed?’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    16 Oct 2020

  • After a couple of months of a tense standoff in the Eastern Mediterranean between Greece and Turkey, it seems that the situation is cooling off, with the ’Oruc Reis’ research vessel and its accompanying warship fleet withdrawing back to Turkish shores. However, Ankara continues its drilling activities in the waters off Cyprus. Ahead of the Special European Council, Brussels must push Erdogan to cease any provocative actions and rhetoric and start negotiations on the basis of international law and the Law of the Sea. Otherwise, the imposition of economic sanctions, further destabilising the already weak Turkish economy, cannot be ruled out.

    On the other hand, the signing of the Abraham Accords signals a new era for the Middle East and the hope that the Mediterranean basin and the wider Gulf region can become a land of peace and prosperity for its people. The alliance formed between France, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus, together with many of region’s Arab states, change the geopolitical map of ‘Mare Nostrum’.

    This online event aims to discuss the recent developments in the area and Turkey’s revisionist stance. How can the EU defend its interests in the region, and what could be the role of Israel and the main Arab countries? Is Turkey NATO’s ‘fifth column’? Finally, what should we expect from the United States and Russia?

    Roland Freudenstein Defence Mediterranean Middle East

    Online Event ‘The Perils of Revisionism: Security Threats in the Eastern Mediterranean ‘

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    22 Sep 2020

  • The departure of the UK from the EU is taking place at a time when the Union is ramping up its own ambitions in the field of security and defence. The EU is pursuing the goal of strategic autonomy to make itself a more influential actor on the world stage. It has initiated a number of programmes, such as Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund, with the aim of spending its defence euros more productively. These European initiatives may well drive the UK further away from the EU as they embody the very integration that had driven the UK to distance itself from the Continent in the first place. Yet this article will argue that the EU still needs to engage the important military capabilities of the UK to be successful in its new ventures and that the UK will also be exposed to many of the security threats that will keep the EU busy in the future.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jamie Shea Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Jamie Shea

    European Defence After Brexit: A Plus or a Minus?


    01 Sep 2020

  • Download research paper: https://oy99maarxf.preview.infomaniak.website/publication/rethinking-eu-crisis-management-from-battlegroups-to-a-european-legion/

    This paper by Niklas Nováky discusses an idea to create a European Legion that has been put forward by Radoslaw Sikorski, MEP. This would be a new kind of EU military unit, made up of volunteers rather than national contingents contributed by the member states. The idea stems from Sikorski’s desire to reform the EU’s existing battlegroups, which have been operational for 15 years but have never been used, despite numerous opportunities. The paper argues that although the EU’s 2007 Lisbon Treaty imposes heavy restrictions on the Union’s ability to deploy military force, it does not rule out conducting operations with a volunteer force. At the same time, a volunteer-based European Legion force would have to be created initially by a group of member states outside the EU framework. These states could then make it available to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy as, for example, a permanent battlegroup. An existing model would be the multinational Eurocorps.

    Margherita Movarelli Niklas Nováky Defence

    Teaser video: ‘Rethinking EU Crisis Management – From Battlegroups to a European Legion?’

    Multimedia - Other videos

    04 Aug 2020

  • This article discusses hybrid threats and the steps that Europe, through various national, EU and NATO initiatives, has taken in recent years to address them. Although these threats do not constitute a new challenge for states and international actors, they became a major concern for European countries following Russia’s conventional and unconventional war in Ukraine in 2014. The article argues that addressing hybrid threats is a constant, never-ending process that requires the development of societal and governmental resilience. Hybrid threats are constantly changing and evolving, which means that our response to them also needs to be constantly evolving in order to keep up. The article also provides some recommendations for European policymakers on the next steps that Europe, especially the EU, should take when addressing hybrid threats.

    Read the full article of the June 2020 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Eitvydas Bajarūnas Defence EU-Russia European Union Security

    Eitvydas Bajarūnas

    Addressing Hybrid Threats: Priorities for the EU in 2020 and Beyond


    24 Jul 2020

  • Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is the surprise guest of this week’s episode! Don’t miss her answers to Roland’s questions on matters such as EU Defence, European security during COVID-19, NATO’s priorities, or the CDU’s general situation.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence

    The Week in 7 Questions with Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

    Multimedia - Other videos

    26 Jun 2020

  • EU leaders seem to have agreed, at least in principle, that an ambitious recovery plan financed by EU bonds should be introduced and that the EU should have more competencies in the area of health care. Do you think the COVID-19 crisis is rekindling some federalist ambitions in the EU?

    Lawrence Gonzi, Former Prime Minister of Malta:

    “Rather than European federalism, I prefer to look at this as a question of European solidarity in practice. It is the realisation that we are all in this together, and we can only get out of it together. The recovery plan is welcomed – it is the response to calls for Europe to do whatever it takes. There are issues being negotiated that still need to be defined, so while this is welcome in principle, we have to ensure that all Member States’ red lines on taxation and competitiveness, for example, are respected. But even with these outstanding issues, Europe is in a strong position, and there is a clear path for this recovery package to move forward. This is a unique opportunity to revitalise Europe’s economy, making it fairer, greener, and more sustainable for all of us. We should not waste it.”

    Andrius Kubilius, Former Prime Minister of Lithuania:

    “If by federalist ambition, we understand that some new European-wide instruments were created to fight the crisis, then we need to agree that since the Treaty of Rome, each crisis was pushing the European Community towards federalist ambition. Yet this is exactly what Jean Monet predicted: ‘Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises’.”

    Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council, Former Prime Minister of Belgium:

    “I myself was not a big fan of the original plans for a Conference on the Future of Europe. I am in favour of it now, because this crisis has shown to citizens that ‘more Europe’ is needed. They found it strange that there were different kinds of politics in the Union regarding the virus, and they found it strange that borders were being closed and opened in a selective and dispersed manner. Many wondered where Europe was. They were unaware that the EU simply did not have competence for health. Europe is not a super-state! It also becomes clear that the EU is very dependent on medical supplies from abroad, especially China. We are already dependent on non-Europeans for digital platforms, energy, defence, and poorly protected external borders. Will we also be externally dependent for food tomorrow? The theme of European sovereignty has been raised; the conference could focus on this, instead of yet another institutional discussion that actually plays into the hands of anti-European forces. If one starts from the needs of the people, one can come up with pro-European decisions. The conference should not only question citizens, but there should also be leadership by formulating proposals and testing them with the public – a combination of top-down and bottom-up.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel, Former Chancellor of Austria:

    “The EU budget for the next seven years needs sufficient resources. The United Kingdom, an important contributor, has left. New challenges, like the prevention of pandemics, President von der Leyen’s ‘Green Deal’, the necessary protection of external borders, and funding an emerging common defence policy, underline the necessity for novel own resources for the Union. Let us add the intended recovery plan after the Corona crisis – and in this context, an open discussion without taboos about the size, use, control, and a repayment plan of such a huge programme is necessary. This may not be a federalist ambition but a better equilibrium of European and national competences.”

    Foreign policy and defence are essential areas for the EU’s future. Would you agree that the European Council should take decisions on the common EU foreign and security policy by majority vote and not by consensus? And do you see PESCO as the main instrument to move forward and strengthen the EU’s weight in the field of defence?

    Lawrence Gonzi: “On the issue of common defence, I think our strength comes from our collective action and common purpose. On the one hand, having consensus on these sensitive issues lends legitimacy to the process and ensures that no Member State feels railroaded into a decision that it is not comfortable with on a sensitive issue. On the other hand, consensus means that their discussions take longer, and we are less flexible in how the Union reacts. On balance, my preference is to retain consensus in defence matters. That means more work for our negotiators and more need for States to compromise – but that is the only way all our citizens will feel involved in the process.”

    Andrius Kubilius: “I agree that Foreign Policy and Defence in the EU are critically important policies. In my view, Foreign and Defence Policies in the EU should not be the only ones decided by majority voting. Other policies should be included, because that is the only way to make the EU truly democratic and effective. PESCO is an important instrument, but more importantly, the EU needs to have a clear strategy on security and defence issues – determining where the EU is going to rely on its ‘strategic autonomy’, and where it will rely on NATO (or US) capabilities.”

    Herman Van Rompuy: “Of course, I am in favour of more possibilities for qualified majority voting. It should also be discussed in the Conference on the Future of Europe. To make the idea more acceptable, one could imagine a softer formula in which the opposition of a minimal number of countries cannot block a decision. This could have avoided the recent problems in the Council. With regard to PESCO: we must make a success of this first in order to envisage the next step. The final objective must be a genuine military dimension of the Union.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel: “The European Union should extend Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) procedures to foreign policy areas. In the future, sensitive decisions regarding China’s policy and ambitions, but also Israel’s prospective annexation plans of the West Bank, will require clear EU statements. Defence policy is probably too underdeveloped for QMV voting and needs, for the foreseeable future, consensual decisions.”

    Despite initial success in 2014, the Spitzenkandidaten procedure to elect the Commission President failed in 2019. How can it be reformed? And what other measures could help bring the EU closer to citizens?

    Lawrence Gonzi: “I am a fan of the Spitzenkandidaten process, and I think it is a pity that it was not fully respected in 2019 – but I do not think that it is dead in the water. I would move to codify the process and therefore give increased legitimacy and certainty to the European Commission President and the entire image of our European Union.”

    Andrius Kubilius: “In an effort to bring the EU closer to its citizens, the role of the European Parliament should be strengthened with the power to initiate legislation, the power of parliamentary oversight of the executive branch, and the power of non-confidence towards individual Commissioners. This would make the entire EU architecture more democratic. The Spitzenkandidaten system was designed to make the whole process less dependent on a consensus in the Council. There are also other ways to overcome this problem: for example, deciding by majority vote in the Council when making a decision on the candidate for Commission President.”

    Herman Van Rompuy: “I’ve never been a supporter of the Spitzenkandidaten procedure. It hasn’t brought the Union any closer to its citizens, and instead organised a pointless power struggle between the EU institutions. I would invest much more energy into the idea of a European constituency. Unfortunately, that concept quickly found its way into the inter-party political battle. It deserves a second chance.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel: “The text of the treaty is quite clear: the European Council makes a proposal, taking into account the results of the EP Election, followed by an affirmative EP vote, which is necessary. Politicising and personalising the election, and as a result the European Commission, is, in my opinion, a disputable option. It is better to put the substance of European policy at the core of the election and the alternative party programs.”

    Crisis Defence EU Institutions EU Member States Future of Europe

    How will the Corona crisis shape the future of Europe?

    Other News

    25 Jun 2020

  • The main preoccupation of the EU and its member states will be, for the foreseeable future, to deal with the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, other policy areas are affected as well. Regarding the EU’s security and defence policy, COVID-19 is likely to extinguish the unprecedented dynamism that has characterised its development since 2016. The immediate impact will be decreased funding for several new initiatives, such as the European Defence Fund.

    The pandemic is also likely to reduce the EU’s readiness to address crises in its neighbourhood and may hasten the Union’s relative decline as a global power, especially if its recovery is slow and wrought by prolonged disputes between the member states over the appropriate economic response to the crisis. However, even after the pandemic, the EU will continue to face familiar challenges such as cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, and instability in its neighbourhood.

    This discussion thus focused on exploring three key questions: (1) What does COVID-19 mean for the future of EU defence cooperation? (2) Is ‘strategic autonomy’ still an appropriate level of ambition for the Union? (3) How will the pandemic shape the EU’s strategic environment?

    Niklas Nováky Defence

    Online Event ‘EU Defence Cooperation after Covid-19: Quo Vadis?’

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    15 Jun 2020

  • The Executive Board of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies today approved the nomination of Professor Jamie Shea as its newest Senior Research Associate. Jamie Shea was an international public servant and a member of the International Staff of NATO for 38 years. He is a regular writer, lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs and on public diplomacy, political communication and many other areas of contemporary international relations.

    “As the president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, I would like to express how honoured and excited we are to have had three exceptional people with an impressive track record joining our ranks as senior research associates in recent months: Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, former Minister of Education of the Republic of Greece; Jolyon Howorth, professor at Harvard University and a world-renowned expert on EU defence; and Jamie Shea, for many years NATO’s face and voice as spokesperson. The Martens Centre is a staunch believer in the need to develop an ambitious European Defence Union embedded in a strong transatlantic alliance. Konstantinos, Jolyon and Jamie will help us make a forceful and credible case for it,” said Mikuláš Dzurinda, president of the Martens Centre.

    Martens Centre Senior Research Associates are politically like-minded academics who provide quick expert advice on developing stories and current affairs. Through their research and analyses they also contribute to an improved reflection process and the strategic debates of the Centre. 

    For more information, you can contact Anna van Oeveren, Communications and Marketing Officer: avo@martenscentre.eu or +32 2 300 80 06. Photo source: NATO
    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Martens Centre welcomes Jamie Shea as Senior Research Associate

    Other News

    08 May 2019

  • With global politics in turmoil, Russia and China have found each other. In 2018, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met one another five times. In the same year, Russia and China held their biggest shared military exercises for decades.

    Trade between the two nations increased by over 30% in 2018, and is expected to increase even more. They also seem to be finding synergies when it comes to dealing with the situations in Syria and Venezuela.

    China and Russia both have features that unite them. Both are blatantly autocratic, show a callous disregard for human rights, and share an openness to using military force in their neighbourhoods. They also share a great interest in pushing back the West’s influence in the world.

    Yet, despite these various areas of cooperation, the list of potential conflict points between the two powers is long. Despite the decade-long and successful efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.

    To start with, Russia considers the Arctic region its front yard. In 2018, China – self-identifying as a ‘Near-Arctic State’ – announced its official Arctic policy, promoting Beijing’s ambitions for the region, and raising Russian fears of a potential Chinese takeover of the polar zone through the creation of a ‘Polar Silk Road’.

    Despite efforts to ease the potential security conflicts between China and Russia, China’s increasing global ambitions are clashing with Russia’s interests.

    China’s Belt and Road Initiative also penetrates post-Soviet states in Russia’s backyard. While on the surface level the project underlines economic cooperation, it is clear that China will not make billions worth of investments without making sure that those investments are protected.

    As a consequence, China’s influence in Central Asia is increasing rapidly. In the long run, it is clear that the power balance will shift in China’s favour in Central Asia. This represents a major change for Russia.

    China has been careful not to encroach upon Russia’s security concerns in Central Asia, but at the same time Beijing is strengthening its role in counterterrorism initiatives with Central Asian states, and beefing up its security presence in countries like Tajikistan.  

    As China’s Belt and Road Initiative becomes more established, it could easily come into conflict with Russia’s interests in the Russia-managed Eurasian Economic Union. Conflicts of interest may also arise in setting out the future direction of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

    Over the past couple of years, European countries have become very concerned about the consequences of China’s increasing investments. The exact same thing is taking place in Russia’s far east.

    For example, Chinese capital now accounts for 45 percent of total foreign investment in the second most important regional city in Russia’s far East, Khabarovsk. Meanwhile Vladivostok, Russia’s far east capital, is also being transformed by Chinese investments.

    While this economic boost is being welcomed in this troubled Russian region, the daily deluge of tens of thousands of Chinese holidaymakers and investors has raised concerns among Russian nationalists, who suspect that this could be part of China’s strategic plot to reconquer its lost territories. Indeed, Vladivostok itself was once a part of China known as ‘Haishenwai’ in Chinese.

    Why is Russia not reacting to China’s expansion?

    Despite these numerous threats, why is Russia still choosing a close alliance with China in various areas? To start with, Russia believes it does not have much of a choice; Russia is a fraction of China’s size economically, and its population is just one tenth of China’s. In military terms, comparing active personnel and military equipment, Russia is not as far behind.

    Nevertheless, Russia can ill afford a military confrontation with China along its long land border, given that its military budget is only one third that of China’s. Russia also knows that China could scale up its military rather quickly if needed both in term of men and equipment because of its economic resources.

    Additionally, despite Russia’s nuclear advantage, it cannot employ the same scaremongering tactics with China as Putin does with the European population, due to the fact that in China the media is controlled.

    But the central reason for Russia’s approach is that while the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game. Putin’s main goal is to secure his immediate future, and in that regard cooperation with China is beneficial.

    While the Putin administration is focused on surviving the next few years, China, by contrast, is playing the long game.

    The likelihood that Putin manages to maintain his grip on power in Russia is high. Nevertheless, the economic situation in Russia is worsening, and increasing popular dissatisfaction is being expressed more openly. The result is growing difficulties for the Kremlin in maintaining the status quo, and controlling different regions and their elections has become more difficult as Putin’s hold on the Russian public loosens.

    Meanwhile, Putin has declared a de-facto war against the West and its set of values. The colour revolutions in Russia’s neighbourhood were interpreted by Putin as an advance of the West’s values, as well as an immediate personal threat. China might become a threat to Russia at some point, but not immediately, and not to Putin himself.

    No doubt Putin understands the long-term risks of China’s growing influence for Russia, but for Putin events in twenty- or thirty-years’ time seem to have less value. China, by contrast knows that Russia is a quickly declining power and it has the patience to wait both for Russia’s power to decay and its own to rise. No doubt Russia will snap out of its sleepwalk with China at some point, but by then it will already be too late.  

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence Economy Foreign Policy Macroeconomics

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Is Russia sleepwalking into Chinese dominance?


    15 Apr 2019

  • As NATO marked its 70th anniversary last week, what better time to reflect on its achievements? Those who are critical of the alliance and what it has accomplished, need only be reminded of the reality in which we live: that there has been no armed conflict between major powers since its creation and zero armed conflict among its members.

    Prior to its creation, the world was devastated by not one world war, but two, in the span of only 20 years. In fact, NATO is fulfilling its mandate at this very moment, shielding 512 million citizens living in the EU by maintaining a deterring presence in eastern Europe, staring down Russian armed forces amassed along the EU’s external borders, our borders.

    Likewise, the same logic that the EU is fulfilling its own mandate should be applied to counter the argument of every Eurosceptic. By acting as a string, linking Europeans together, it too has succeeded in preventing any armed conflict within its borders since its inception. The world needs these great constructs, more than ever, as it and the balance of power becomes increasingly unstable and fraught with dangers.

    Among them, as already mentioned, a resurging Russia is escalating tensions at almost every opportunity, by means both conventional and radical, utilising old tricks and new. From increasing its presence along European borders, engaging in proxy standoffs like Syria and now Venezuela, to routinely perpetrating acts of espionage in the US, the UK and Continental Europe, Russia has shown it intends to remain a key challenger of the West.

    But these are all from the Kremlin’s old playbook. Turning a page to the Kremlin’s playbook 2.0, we see a Russia that is actively involved in new means of disruption and confrontation, many of which the West is struggling to address.

    To name just a few, these include multifaceted disinformation campaigns in central and eastern Europe, interference in foreign elections (a major concern for the upcoming European Parliament elections), using its energy supplies to coerce its dependents – a trap that the EU should seek to avoid at all costs – and removing itself from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty while instigating a new arms race.

    On the latter point, both Russia and the US have renounced their participation in the INF Treaty, with Russia proclaiming its alleged progress in developing new weapons, such as low-flying hypersonic ICBMs (like the Russian R-28 Sarmat, nicknamed ‘Satan-2’) that significantly alter existing theories and strategies relating to nuclear weapons, including deterrence. In response, the US has already proclaimed its plans to test similar ICBMs in a few months’ time.

    To compound these concerns, perhaps the most significant threat to stability and world peace does not involve Russia at all, but rather an emerging China eager to assume its place on the world stage as the hegemon. In addition to relying on conventional means to assert its dominance, it too is actively engaged in new and innovative techniques to gain leverage over its Western rivals, escalating tensions at a worrying rate.

    In particular, China’s present modus operandi includes cyber warfare, foreign interference and espionage (exacerbating fears of possible malicious intent by telecommunications giant Huawei), flexing its muscles in the Pacific and jeopardising regional peace and shipping routes, infrastructure investment schemes and charm offences to sway favour towards the East rather than the West, and developing new military technology far superior to Western capabilities.

    With both the US and Russia leaving the INF Treaty, which China was never a part of, and all three heavyweights vying for position, deterrence by other, tried and trusted means becomes crucial. That is why the West needs NATO and why it remains the greatest alliance the world has ever known. When soft power fails, hard power or the threat thereof must be present to fill that void.

    Donald Trump, for all his follies, is not off the mark when he claims that NATO’s members need to step up their defence spending, a point reiterated by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on his trip to Washington last week. NATO members appears to be listening, with a noticeable increase in spending (by Canada and European members) by 4 percent from 2017 to 2018, and Stoltenberg predicting those same allies will increase spending upwards to $100 billion USD by the end of 2020.

    That is why the West needs NATO and why it remains the greatest alliance the world has ever known. When soft power fails, hard power or the threat thereof must be present to fill that void.

    On NATO expansion, most notably North Macedonia looking set to join the ranks of NATO’s 29 members, and further accession possibly on the horizon, the alliance is sending a clear message that it is here to stay and remains a force to be reckoned with. But is this enough?

    Indeed, the European Union must continue to up its game and walk the walk when it comes to security burden sharing. Not because Donald Trump says so, but because it’s high time that it improves its preparedness and autonomy and becomes the superpower the world needs it to be. The EU has the means to do so and the political will is (slowly) gaining traction. Continuing this trend would not only improve autonomy but it would also reinforce NATO and, by extension, enhance deterrence and tip the balance of power in the West’s favour.

    After all, NATO was founded on burden sharing, enshrined in its charter under Article 5. What use is NATO to our allies if we are incapable of coming to their rescue, just as we expect them to come to ours?

    The threats posed to NATO’s members are becoming very real in an increasingly unstable world. That is why fortifying the alliance is paramount, at a time when the strength and appetite of our adversaries is growing. The world barely survived two world wars and, thanks to NATO, it has survived another seventy years. Would it survive a third? Given the level of assured destruction it would certainly endure, I’m not so sure.

    As Albert Einstein once said on the matter: “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Will we avoid his prophetic warning of total destruction? Perhaps, but neglecting NATO is a sure way to put his theory to the test.

    Gavin Synnott Defence Leadership Security Transatlantic

    Gavin Synnott

    NATO at seventy – why it remains the greatest alliance the world has ever known


    09 Apr 2019

  • This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Washington Treaty, which created NATO in 1949 and laid the foundations for the modern transatlantic relationship. Since then, the US and Europe have achieved much together: the Soviet Union has been relocated into history’s dustbin, Winston Churchill’s metaphorical Iron Curtain has come down, and the risk of nuclear Armageddon has faded. Not a bad resume.

    Although the world has changed, the transatlantic relationship remains as vital as ever. Through its war against Ukraine and hostile influence operations on both sides of the Atlantic, Russia has made it clear that it wants to be seen as a revisionist power and as an adversary of the West. An increasingly powerful and assertive China is also challenging the existing liberal international order, which the US helped to create with its allies after World War II. These challenges require common transatlantic solutions.

    Yet, the transatlantic bond is arguably weaker today than at any moment since 1949. Both sides are to blame for this.  Concerning the US, President Donald J. Trump has alienated many of America’s European allies through his hostile rhetoric. The President has shocked Europeans by calling the EU a foe and arguing—wrongly—that it was set up to take advantage of the US economically. Europeans have also been disturbed by his alleged desire to quit NATO, a move that would hand Russia the biggest grand strategic prize it could imagine.

    European Atlanticists are also dismayed by Trump’s affinity for European populists and ethno-nationalists. His world view seems often closer to that of former UK Independence Party leader and Brexit architect Nigel Farage than that of German Chancellor Angela Markel. This is evident, for example, from the administration’s hostility towards the EU.

    In December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech in Brussels that mentioned the EU only once, even though he was speaking a block away from the European Parliament. Moreover, this mention was delivered in the form of a thinly veiled punch to the gut of his European audience: Pompeo asked whether the EU is placing the interests of its members and their citizens before those of Brussels-based bureaucrats.

    Europeans are used to occasional transatlantic rifts and American straight talk. The two sides were bitterly divided over the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and many Europeans still have not fully forgiven former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for simplistically dividing the continent into ‘old Europe’ and ‘new Europe’. Yet, Europeans worry that the Trump administration represents something qualitatively different, implicitly if not explicitly hostile towards them, at least on certain issues.

    Yet, Europe itself has also contributed to the weakening of the transatlantic bond. The US is right to criticize Europeans for failing to reach NATO’s 2% of GDP defence spending target, due to an entrenched culture of free riding. European societies have also grown psychologically somewhat apart from the US, which manifest itself in popular opposition to initiatives such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

    Although it was President Trump who halted TTIP negotiations in 2018, there was little chance that a final deal would have been ratified in all EU countries.

    The US also has a point in arguing that Europe could do more to support American foreign policy goals, as Vice President Mike Pence suggested in his ill-received speech at the 2019 Munich Security Conference. On some issues such as the future of the so-called Iran Deal, the emergence of a common transatlantic position is unlikely, at least for now.

    On others such as the political crisis in Venezuela, in which the geostrategic implications for Europe itself are limited at best, there should be a more concerted effort on the European side to support the American line as a goodwill demonstration and also to project transatlantic unity to the outside world.

    Yet, even though Europeans can sometimes be frustrating allies, the US should not be sleepwalking away from the transatlantic relationship by siding with populists, treating the EU as a foe, and dismissing NATO. In a turbulent world where there are many threats to US national security, maintaining traditional alliances will help the current and future US administrations mitigate those threats.

    The defining international security issue of the 21st century is likely to be the Sino-American rivalry. As China’s power increases, the need for Washington to balance Beijing to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond will grow correspondingly. However, China’s economic power is already greater than that of America’s great power rivals in the 20th century: the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Imperial Germany and Imperial Japan. This means that the US cannot afford to alienate its existing allies.

    Collaborating with, at times, frustrating Europeans will therefore continue to be important for the US. America will need Europe to form an effective coalition to balance against the negative aspects of China’s growing influence around the world, including within Europe itself.

    It will also need Europe to preserve and protect the fundamental elements of the existing liberal international order, which is under unprecedented pressure. As Sparta needed allies to stand against a rising Athens in the fifth century BC, so too will the US need its allies to stand against a rising China today.

    In 1963, France and Germany signed the Elysée Treaty, which set the framework for their post-war relations and laid the foundations for further European integration. This January, France and Germany signed the Treaty of Aachen, to strengthen their bilateral ties and set future priorities.

    To recalibrate the transatlantic relationship in the 21st century, the 70th anniversary of the Washington Treaty could be celebrated with a new treaty in which the US and Europe would recommit to tackling common challenges. To increase its appeal to the White House, it could even be called the Mar-a-Lago Treaty.

    Niklas Nováky Brexit Defence EU-US Security Transatlantic

    Niklas Nováky

    America alienates Europe at its own peril


    19 Feb 2019

  • While Ukrainian politicians one year ahead of both presidential and parliamentary elections are thinking about their campaign messages and the West has its eyes on the formation of the Anticorruption court in Kyiv, there’s one item missing from the European headlines. More specifically, the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

    Some months before the extension of the OSCE’s mandate in the separatist-controlled territories until March 2019, the question of a United Nations peacekeeping mission to Donbass has again been put on the table.

    “Even though they don’t have any control over the fighters, the OSCE are a very important presence on the ground” – stated Mykhailo Pashkov, Deputy Director of the Razumkov Centre – “however the international community should address the question of expansion and overall transformation of its mission to Donbass.”

    Since the signature of the Minsk II Agreements in February 2015, little to nothing has changed in Eastern Ukraine. None of the points of the 13-point plan negotiated by the Normandy Format in the Belarusian capital have been implemented, with Ukraine and Russia continuously playing the blame game as to who should take the first step.

    The truth is, local elections in the separatist controlled area cannot be held without a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and even though the West has tied the lifting of economic sanctions on Russia (which have just been renewed for another six months at the recent EU Summit on June 28 and 29) to  the implementation of Minsk II, Putin has done nothing to pressure the separatists, (clearly under his control) to respect point 1 of the Agreement. Would deploying a contingent of UN Blue Helmets possibly be a step in the right direction to untie this deadlock?

    Since the signature of the Minsk II Agreements in February 2015, little to nothing has changed in Eastern Ukraine.

    According to Minsk II, Ukraine’s homework consists in implementing political aspects of the agreement, meaning granting a special status for the People’s Republic of Donetsk and Luhansk (DPR and LPR) and amending the Constitution of Ukraine, followed immediately by local elections on separatist-controlled territories. But President Poroshenko insists that a political solution to the conflict can only be achieved with a complete ceasefire, withdrawal of troops and weaponry and a stabilization process of Donbass.

    Unfortunately for almost every party involved, the so-called “frozen conflict” is getting hotter. The last week of May was the most violent of 2018, with more than 20 deaths, both military and civilian casualties, and over 7000 ceasefire violations, according to Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

    The rise of violence  occurred at the time of transition of the command of the war from the “anti-terror operation” (ATO) run by the security forces of Ukraine, SBU, to the country’s armed forces, in accordance with the Donbass Reintegration Law adopted in January this year.The law also designates a role for the military in the peace process, especially with regards the protection of civilians and the creation of conditions for the return of 1.7 million internally displaced people to the occupied territories. However, Ukraine cannot do it alone.

    Since 2015, the conflict has created a contact line of 457 km, affected 4.4 million people, injured almost 25.000 and killed above 10.303 civilians and soldiers– numbers that call for international attention and engagement.

    A peacekeeping mission to Ukraine would ideally undertake tasks like demilitarisation, mine clearance and return of refugees, complementing the work of the OSCE observers. There are only a few obstacles on the way.

    After a meeting of foreign ministers of the Normandy Format last month to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire following the hot month of May in Donbass, Russia and Ukraine agreed in principle on a UN peacekeeping missions, but their ideas about how to implement it seem very much apart.

    In order to function, the Blue Helmets need a strong presence and mandate, as suggested by a report commissioned by former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but their nationality is the first disagreement regarding this operation. Kyiv is against Russian and Belarussian contingents, while the Kremlin opposes NATO countries claiming also that more powerful states are less impartial.

    Secondly, Moscow, trying once more to play the card of the “non-involved-party”, insists that all arrangements should be made with the separatists, which would de-facto mean their recognition, a condition which is absolutely unacceptable for the Ukrainian government.

    And thirdly, there are disagreements regarding the physical location of the peacekeepers. President Putin wants the mission to be deployed only on the contact line between the territories controlled by Ukraine and DPR and LPR, whereas President Poroshenko insists on the coverage also of the parts of the Russian-Ukrainian border which are now under separatists control.

    In any case, Blue Helmets or not, the most important thing is that this war cannot continue being ignored. World leaders have to be constantly reminded, that the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is a result of Russian aggression and violation of territorial integrity, especially in the light of recent softening positions towards the Kremlin of the Italian Prime Minister and US President, who both suggested the reintegration of Russia into the G8, from which the country was expelled following the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

    The West should keep the Ukrainian conflict high on the agenda by raising the issue with the Kremlin on every occasion, by discussing it in national parliaments and the media and by presenting a unified, rather than a splintered, sceptical approach towards the imposition of sanctions on Russia.

    The People of Donbass – those who remained, as well as those who fled – do not expect much, they expect the bare minimum; the end of hostilities. According to Aleksij Mazuka, from Kalmius Group, 60% of the total Ukrainian population support the idea of a UN peacekeeping mission to the Eastern part of the country and wish for a full re-integration of People’s Republic of Donetsk and Luhansk.

    Maybe, after the 21 peacekeeping missions that Ukraine contributed to worldwide since its independence, it is time for the international community to show to the 4, 4 million people of Donbass that they have not been forgotten.

    Anna Nalyvayko Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Donbass, remember?


    05 Jul 2018

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    Defence Dialogue with Carl Bildt

    Defence Dialogues

    24 May 2018

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    Defence Dialogue with Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges

    Defence Dialogues

    25 Apr 2018

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    Defence Dialogue with Prof. Jolyon Howorth

    Defence Dialogues

    29 Mar 2018

  • The UK has traditionally played an ambivalent role in European security and defence policymaking. With Brexit, the EU loses one of its two serious military players. On the other hand, it has been liberated from the constraints imposed by London on the Common Security and Defence Policy, and this has created a new dynamism behind the defence project.

    There has been comparatively little commentary on the defence implications of Brexit, and the UK has been less than forthcoming in making concrete proposals for an ongoing UK–EU partnership. Both sides assert that they wish to maintain a strong cooperative relationship after Brexit, but the outlines of such an arrangement remain very unclear.

    This article suggests that the UK will have more to lose than the EU from any failure to reach agreement, and that UK ambivalence about links between the Common Security and Defence Policy and NATO will prove to be a major sticking point.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jolyon Howorth Brexit Defence EU Member States Security

    Jolyon Howorth

    EU defence cooperation after Brexit: what role for the UK?


    30 Nov 2017

  • Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its subsequent invasion of eastern Ukraine led to a series of attacks against Ukraine. These have included cyber-attacks, fake news, economic pressure, terrorist attacks, as well as an all-out military conflict. Given that eastern Ukraine was at the centre of these attacks, its civil society developed its own resilience strategy to minimise the impact of non-military hybrid threats. This experience provides valuable lessons for Europe in general.

    Ukraine’s response to Russian hybrid warfare

    The concept of ‘resilience’ has traditionally been used in the areas of development and risk management. The European Union’s (EU’s) 2016 Global Strategy defined resilience as a concept that encompasses the ability of states, societies, communities and individuals to transcend a crisis while maintaining national economic and social development, and adapting to the changing environment under the pressure of continuous threats.

    European states, both EU and non-EU ones, face many common security challenges such as terrorism, cyber threats, fake news, political and economic pressure, and military sabre-rattling. Given that military force is not often the most appropriate and effective way of addressing such hybrid threats, a resilience strategy can and should be deployed to strengthen the state’s capacity to deal with them.

    Ukraine has become a testing ground for Russia’s unconventional tactics. It is also an easy target due to internal systemic weaknesses caused by corruption, dysfunctional institutions, and a fragmented civil society. By means of disinformation, operations of influence and subversion, Russia annexed Crimea without an open military intervention. It also localised a static, low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine, i.e. masked “People’s Republics’” puppet states as a product of civil war where Russia obscures its involvement to a secondary role.

    Ukraine has become a testing ground for Russia’s unconventional tactics.

    Following the annexation of Crimea, a Russian disinformation operation was launched to discredit the Ukrainian government and institutions in the eyes of the country’s citizens. At first, Ukraine faced significant difficulties in responding to the way Russia was challenging the perception of national identity, values, and history. More specifically, there was a dramatic shortage of the resources required to protect the country’s military, diplomatic, media and home fronts.

    The most effective deterrent against hybrid threats proved to be societal resistance. A non-violent local civilian defence operation began. This included civilian groups debunking fake news with the extremely successful website StopFake, countering cyber-attacks, forming humanitarian aid volunteer groups, volunteer reform teams in government agencies and local councils, and volunteer civilian patrol and rescue teams.

    Although this response had a positive impact, it was chaotic and needs sustained support to become part of a resilience strategy facing a continuous level of threat. The key to developing an effective strategy is to rethink the nature of the threat and decentralise the response to the level of communities and individuals.

    A bottom up approach to resilience

    If we understand hybrid warfare as a complex set of interconnected threats and forceful means waged to further political motives we no longer limit threats to traditional kinetic operations. In fact, hybrid threats have made traditional state borders irrelevant. It is no longer only the protection of borders that guarantees a nation’s security but also its home front.

    To fortify the home front, European states need to challenge the traditional top-down institutional approach towards security and development planning. The Ukrainian experience illustrates the difficulties in making domestic resilience work in practice.

    Engagement between government institutions and civil society remained inefficient, creating gaps between the needs and the expectations of the population on the one hand, and the capacities and resources of the authorities on the other hand. Those gaps indicated the state of resilience as well as the areas vulnerable to hybrid attacks.

    National resilience is a continuous process of developing and improving knowledge of the changing needs and security threats on local and national levels. 

    The nexus between national security and resilience is rooted in individuals’ attitudes toward leadership and institutions. To operationalise resilience, it is necessary to monitor levels of trust and preparedness as key indicators of existing gaps between the population, civil society and government institutions.

    The EU’s Global Strategy correctly points out that “when the ‘centre’ is broken, acting only from top-down has a limited impact.” It is much more difficult for an external force to disrupt personal and organisational networks built by both the private and public sector. This reality is what makes bottom up organisations key factors in enhancing resilience.

    The way forward

    National resilience is a continuous process of developing and improving knowledge of the changing needs and security threats on local and national levels. The EU’s objective to help states and societies build their resilience is limited to financial and knowledge transfers (monitoring, training, advising).

    To guarantee local ownership, the EU should engage at the level of an actor’s capabilities. However, this creates practical challenges. In reality, resilience building means going to distant regions of the EU’s partner countries such as eastern Ukraine. The cities of Kramators’k, Sieverodonets’k, and Mariupil are at the heart of an effort to build effective resilience against disinformation and military attacks. It is clear that an effective EU response would require facilitating partnership between the state and civil society in local communities.

    Such ambition should be met with clear understanding how to choose the local partners and monitor fund distribution. All investments should come with the tag of local ownership and responsibility. Aside from all of these challenges, the EU’s presence in Ukrainian communities would allow its member states to learn on the ground the most practical tools to counteract hybrid threats and improve national resilience in their home countries.

    Anna Bulakh Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security Ukraine

    Anna Bulakh

    Operationalising resilience: an example from Ukraine

    Blog - Ukraine

    21 Nov 2017

  • On November 10th 2017, the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, released a joint communication on improving military mobility in the European Union. 

    According to Mogherini, this is important because there is “a growing demand” for the member states “to coordinate and work together on defence”. This proposal is part of the EU’s on-going efforts to strengthen its role in the area of security and defence, which has gained momentum since the publication of the Union’s 2016 Global Strategy.

    If followed up with a clear action plan, the proposal will strengthen the EU’s defence dimension, and boost its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

    It calls for the development of a shared understanding of the EU’s military needs and requirements; a common understanding of the infrastructure to be used and its impact on the infrastructural standards; and addressing the relevant regulatory and procedural issues that hinder military mobility.

    If followed up with a clear action plan, the proposal will strengthen the EU’s defence dimension, and boost its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

    The logistics of European defence

    ‘Military mobility’ is a new addition to the EU’s security and defence jargon. It can be defined as the movement of military personnel, capabilities, and equipment within and across national borders.

    During the Cold War, military mobility in Europe was facilitated because large exercises were organised regularly, and the infrastructure for handling force movements was in place.

    Today, it is hindered by a range of physical, legal, and regulatory barriers, which make it difficult to move troops, equipment, and capabilities swiftly from one country to another. This creates delays and extra costs when troops need to be moved across borders to a multinational exercise for example.

    During the Cold War, military mobility in Europe was facilitated because large exercises were organised regularly, and the infrastructure for handling force movements was in place. 

    In September, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, Commander of United States (US) Army Europe, noted that “most people would be astounded” to find out what NATO has to do to move troops in Europe. According to Lt. Gen Hodges the Alliance has “to submit a list of all the vehicles, the drivers and what’s in every truck”.

    Thus, it often takes weeks to obtain the permission to move through. Furthermore, the bridges and roads in many European countries are often unable to support the weight of armoured and other heavy vehicles. In a genuine crisis, such red tape and infrastructure problems could become security threats in themselves.

    Recently, there have been calls, especially by the Netherlands, to create a type of “military Schengen area”, within which military personnel and materiel can be moved quickly throughout Europe.

    In fact, the Dutch, together with a half-dozen other member states, have proposed a “military Schengen area” as one of the projects to be conducted within the framework of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

    Notable reactions

    The joint communication was welcomed especially by those EU member states that border Russia and require external assistance in the event of a crisis.

    For example Estonia’s Ambassador to the EU’s Political and Security Committee (PSC), Lembit Uibo, tweeted that Estonia “welcomes the EU joint communication on military mobility” because removing bureaucratic and infrastructural barriers to the swift movement of forces in Europe “enhances our collective security and complements NATO”.

    The proposal to improve military mobility in the EU is one in which there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

    The initiative also enjoys NATO’s full support. The Alliance’s Director for Defence Policy and Capabilities, Timo S. Koster, described it in a tweet as a “very helpful move” by the EU that was “carefully prepared” with NATO.

    Furthermore, he saw that “everything civilian” about military mobility is best done by the Commission and the EU’s member states. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also thought that military mobility could become “a flagship for NATO-EU cooperation”.

    The initiative is also backed by the United States (US). On November 9, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis noted that if you want a NATO that is “truly capable of protecting the democracies here [in Europe], you have got to be able to work together, and one of the most fundamental points of that is at the point of borders where you speed troops if they are needed somewhere else in the Alliance”. He saluted the Netherlands for pushing for a military Schengen in the EU, and noted the US supports the EU in implementing the Dutch proposal.

    The way forward

    The proposal to improve military mobility in the EU is one in which there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is especially the case because its aim is not to take away the member states’ sovereign right to decide whether military forces from another country can enter their territory.

    Instead, it aims to facilitate military mobility in full respect of the member states’ sovereignty and in accordance with the existing treaties and legislation. Thus, it will not require a treaty change.

    The initiative also furthers the policy goals of the European People Party (EPP). To protect European citizens, the December 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence notes that the member states “shall cooperate, share relevant information and ensure rapid responses in order to build resilience, address present challenges, such as irregular migration, and effectively counter hybrid threats, such as cyber security and disinformation campaigns.”

    The improvement in military mobility would certainly improve the EU’s rapid response capability, its resilience, and its ability to counter hybrid threats.

    The next major step in the EU’s efforts to improve military mobility will be an Action Plan on Military Mobility, which the High Representative and the Commission will submit for the member states’ endorsement by March 2018. The European Defence Agency (EDA) has already set up an expert-level Ad Hoc Working Group to support the Action Plan’s elaboration.

    As the group that has been leading the debate on European defence since 1992, the EPP is uniquely positioned to provide ideas and input to this Action Plan to ensure that it will be both ambitious and realistic.

    The EPP could lead the way in proposing ways to cut the existing administrative red tape that hinders military mobility. For example the EPP Action Programme from the 2014 Dublin congress called for the EU to take steps to remove transportation bottlenecks, “especially in the form of administrative and technological barriers in order to create a modern, efficient and sustainable European transportation infrastructure”. Thus, the improvement of military mobility should be done in a way that would facilitate the realisation of this goal.

    Niklas Nováky Defence Integration Society

    Niklas Nováky

    The Commission’s military mobility proposal: a good first step


    21 Nov 2017

  • Niklas Nováky Jyrki Katainen Defence

    Defence Dialogue with Jyrki Katainen

    Defence Dialogues

    20 Nov 2017

  • European Allies are increasingly well positioned, in economic and fiscal terms, to opt to play a full role as NATO members in developing stronger defence capabilities. This is timely, given Russia’s resurgence and ongoing security challenges to Europe’s South.

    Europe is gradually adapting to a new normal, consisting of an assertive Russia, which challenges Western interests and values in both the East and the South, and ongoing threats from Islamist non-state actors across Northern Africa and the wider Middle East.

    Prior to 2014, in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2009, NATO Allies had engaged in widespread cuts to defence spending. This was largely driven by fiscal policy pressures, as public debt and deficit levels rose strongly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and of the subsequent Great Recession.

    The vast majority of European Allies are also EU Member States, and thus subject to obligations under EU law to maintain their public debt-to-GDP levels below 60% of GDP, and their annual fiscal balances, if in deficit, to no worse than 3% of GDP.

    In recent academic research[1], I defined an EU Member State’s fiscal capacity as the ability to increase total public spending while complying with the EU’s 60% rule for the public debt-to-GDP ratio.

    I then demonstrated that, over the 2008-2016 period, Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others (or to at least decrease it less than others) if they had greater fiscal capacity.

    I also showed that Allies had tended to increase defence spending more than others if they were located closer to stationed or deployed military forces of the Russian Federation, and if they had a land border with the Russian Federation. Recent data illustrates the impact of these two factors on the extent to which Allies have increased their defence spending, in real terms, between 2014 and 2017, see Chart 1.

    Chart 1: Increases in defence spending (2014-2017) versus public debt ratios in 2014

    The largest increases have occurred in nations that both are closer to Russian forces and benefit from lower public debt-to-GDP ratios. Conversely, increases have been much more subdued – and in the cases of Belgium and Croatia even negative – among Allies who suffered from high public debt levels in 2014 and are geographically further removed from Russian military forces.

    A third effect is at play, namely how close individual Allies were to NATO’s 2% guideline in 2014. The UK, France, Greece, Estonia and Poland were either above or quite close to 2% in 2014, thus explaining their comparatively lower real increases in defence spending since that time. Increases are particularly large in Lithuania and Latvia, which had low levels of defence spending as a percentage of GDP in 2014.

    Prospects for a fulfilment of NATO’s Defence Investment Pledge?

    At NATO’s 2014 Summit in Wales, Allies had committed to either remain above 2% if already at that level or, for those that were not, to “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade”. In light of the relationships that were documented above, what prospects do Allies have to respect their commitment, given likely economic and fiscal prospects?

    Focusing on the 17 NATO Allies that are also EU Member States and which, according to the latest estimates published by NATO, are expected to still be below the 2% guideline in 2017, one finds that there is good news overall. Based on the projections from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook, October 2017 edition, the public debt-to-GDP ratios of all 17 nations are projected to fall, as compared to their 2016 ratios, by 2022.

    By that year, 9 out of the 17 nations should be below 60%, as opposed to 7 today. The two nations that are expected to successfully cross below the 60% threshold are Germany and the Netherlands.

    Chart 2: Public debt-to-GDP ratios: 2016 (actual) and 2022 (projected)

    For the 9 nations that are projected to reach a public debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 60% by 2022, it should be particularly easy to raise defence spending up to 2% of GDP, as this could be achieved purely through higher deficit and debt levels, for which there is leeway. Such an approach would require no other sacrifices in fiscal and budgetary terms – neither any increases of the tax burden as a share of GDP, nor any compression of non-defence spending as a share of GDP.

    For those nations that are projected to still be above 60% of GDP by 2022, raising defence spending to 2% of GDP would still be possible, but this would require greater sacrifices, e.g. tax burden increases and/or compression of other public spending, if one assumes that these nations would simultaneously be seeking to reduce their public debt-to-GDP ratios by at least as much as the IMF projects.

    This is especially true for those Allies which have particularly high debt ratios and which are still far below the 2% guideline – namely Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain.

    For these four nations, one could argue that both greater debt reduction efforts and greater defence spending efforts would be conducive to national security, and ultimately to Europe’s collective security. Overall, however, most European Allies face improving fiscal prospects and a greater margin of manoeuvre to reach the goals they committed to at the Wales Summit.

    Edward Hunter CHRISTIE is a Defence Economist at NATO. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of NATO or of Allied governments.
    [1] Edward Hunter Christie (2017): The Demand for Military Expenditure in Europe: The Role of Fiscal Space in the Context of a Resurgent Russia, Defence and Peace Economics, DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2017.1373542

    Edward Hunter Christie Defence European Union Foreign Policy

    Edward Hunter Christie

    Do European Allies have the economic and fiscal capacity to fulfill their NATO commitments?


    14 Nov 2017

  • On November 13, 23 European Union (EU) member states signed a joint notification of their willingness to participate in the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), a hitherto unused provision within the Treaty on European Union (TEU) that enables willing and able countries to deepen their security and defence cooperation.

    By signing the notification and handing it over to both the Council of the EU and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the 23 member states took the first formal step towards PESCO. This step and PESCO’s forthcoming activation, which is expected to take place at the December 11 Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), is a potentially significant milestone for EU security and defence cooperation.

    It should be seen in the context of the Union’s on-going efforts to strengthen its competences in the area of security and defence, which have gained momentum since the publication of the EU’s Global Strategy on foreign and security policy in June 2016.

    The only member states that did not sign the PESCO notification are Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and the United Kingdom (UK). Of these member states, Denmark has had an opt-out from EU defence cooperation since 1992, Malta is neutral, and the UK is leaving the EU by March 2019.

    Portugal did not sign the notification because the far-left allies of Prime Minister António Costa’s socialist government oppose it. However, the country is expected to become a founding member of PESCO in December. Ireland is also expected to join, but the country first needs the approval of its cabinet and parliament.

    Towards strategic autonomy

    PESCO enables those member states that fulfil certain higher criteria to cooperate more closely in security and defence. Its objectives are laid out in Protocol 10 TEU, which states that PESCO aims to facilitate (1) the development of the participating member states’ defence capacities, and (2) the supply of EU battlegroups. Given that EU battlegroups have been operational since 2005, the second objective has already been achieved. This means that PESCO will focus primarily on the development of member states’ defence capacities. Indeed, this is also what it should focus on.

    Recent crises in the EU’s neighbourhood have made it clear that most member states lack many necessary capabilities and are technologically far behind the United States (US). NATO’s operation in Libya in 2011, for example, demonstrated that European countries continue to rely heavily on US capabilities in areas such as air-to-air refuelling and smart munition.

    In fact, most European allies that participated in the Libya operation ran out of ammunition, which meant that they had to buy stockpiled ammunition from the US. Thus, PESCO’s ultimate goal should be an EU that is strategically autonomous, meaning that it could eventually conduct Libya-type operations on its own if necessary.

    First reactions

    The move towards PESCO was also endorsed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This clearly shows that NATO does not consider deeper EU defence cooperation as a threat to itself, as certain eurosceptics would like us to believe.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg himself welcomed PESCO because it can “strengthen European defence which is good for Europe but also good for NATO”. He also emphasised that “we need to be sure that forces and capabilities developed under PESCO are also available for NATO”, and that non-EU NATO allies should be involved in the consultations and in the process to the fullest possible extent.

    The way forward

    The Council now has to adopt a decision establishing PESCO by reinforced qualified majority—that is, at least 72 percent of the members of the Council representing 65 percent of the EU’s population. Once PESCO has been established, most likely at the December 11 FAC, a list of projects that will be undertaken through its framework will be agreed by the participating member states. These are likely to include things such as a military Schengen area, capabilities development in different areas, enhanced training, and operational readiness.

    Whatever the nature of the projects that will be undertaken through the framework of PESCO, its success should be measured against its ability to clearly improve the participating member states’ defence capabilities, both quantitatively and qualitatively. This is only fair given that PESCO’s main goal is to facilitate the development of the participating member states’ defence capacities. The ultimate goal should be an EU that is strategically autonomous.

    It is important to ensure that PESCO does not end up like the EU’s battlegroups. Although impressive on paper, the battlegroups have never been used since they became operational in 2005 due to a lack of political will among the contributing member states. Thus, there is a risk that the member states participating in PESCO will eventually lose interest in it and the projects that will be undertaken in its framework, and their willingness to invest in the improvement if their defence capacities will decrease.

    This is why it will be important for the European Defence Agency (EDA) to rigorously fulfil the role outlined for it in Protocol 10 TEU, which enables it to assess the participating member states’ contributions to the various PESCO projects in accordance with the criteria they have agreed to. The ones that fail to live up to their commitments should clearly be called out.

    The European People Party (EPP), which has been leading the debate on European defence since 1992, has been actively calling for the activation of PESCO for years. The December 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence, for example, emphasized that “[t]he EU should make use of the full range of legal instruments provided in the Treaty of Lisbon”, including PESCO. Now that the member states have agreed to have an inclusive PESCO, the EPP can play an important role in ensuring that it will also be ambitious.

    In particular, the EPP could adopt three measures. Firstly, advocate for the inclusion of ambitious projects in PESCO from now until its activation, such as a military Schengen area and a genuine EU operational headquarters. Secondly, actively monitor and report on the implementation of PESCO after it has been activated to ensure that the participating member states will not lose interest in it.

    And finally, clearly signal out those member states that fail to meet their commitments. After all, the activation of PESCO should not be seen as a goal in itself. It is what comes afterwards that will determine its success or failure.

    Niklas Nováky Defence

    Niklas Nováky

    Permanent Structured Cooperation: engines ignited, but not yet lift-off


    14 Nov 2017

  • Since 2015, the European Union (EU) has been discussing the idea of creating a European Security and Defence Union (ESDU). Although details are scarce, this means deepening cooperation between EU member states in the area of security and defence beyond what is currently done within the framework of the Union’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

    ESDU: where we are so far

    The current discussion is driven by a recognition that the EU needs to do more in the area of security and defence. Three developments in particular have pushed ESDU to the top of the Union’s agenda. Firstly, its failure to deal with the 2011 Libya crisis and the 2014 Ukraine crisis without the United States (US).

    Secondly, the United Kingdom’s (UK’s) decision to leave the EU, or ‘Brexit’, which means that the Union will lose its strongest military power and the main obstacle for deeper defence cooperation.

    Thirdly, concerns about America’s willingness to defend its European allies under President Donald Trump in all circumstances.

    ESDU is not a new idea. It was first discussed during the Convention on the Future of Europe (CFE), which drafted the EU’s failed constitution in 2001-2003. During the CFE, France and Germany called for developing an ESDU on the grounds that ‘a Europe fully capable of taking action’ was not feasible without ‘enhancing its military capabilities’.

    The idea was also raised in April 2003 by France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. At the time, however, ESDU did not gain steam because Atlanticist EU member states—notably the UK—saw it as an attempt to undermine the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although the European Parliament (EP) brought up ESDU again in 2006, the idea remained more or less buried until 2015-2016.

    The current ESDU discussion differs from the 2002-2006 one because there is now much broader support for it. Since 2016, the European Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EP, the Council of the EU, and various EU member states have expressed support for the ESDU.

    The European People’s Party (EPP), which has been leading the debate on EU defence since 1992, called for an ESDU ‘worthy of that name’ in June 2015. Germany’s 2016 security policy white paper also mentioned that achieving ESDU is Berlin’s ‘long-term goal’.[1] Furthermore, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s 2017 State of the Union address stated that the EU needs ‘a fully-fledged European Defence Union’ by 2025.

    Practical implications

    Although the idea of ESDU is gaining momentum, the current discussion has included surprisingly few details on what it would mean in practice as most of what has been said in public is vague. The Commission’s June 2017 Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, for example, notes that an ESDU ‘will require joint decision-making and action, as well as greater financial solidarity at European level’; and that an ESDU ‘would be premised on the global strategic, economic and technological drivers, as well as a political push from European citizens for common European security and defence’.[2] This is hardly a blueprint.

    In all likelihood, ESDU will be a form of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) under articles 42(6) and 46 of the Treaty on EU (TEU). PESCO enables those member states ‘whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions’ to deepen their cooperation in the area security and defence beyond what some of their partners might be comfortable with.[3]

    Essentially, it would mean the creation of a defence ‘avant-garde’, ‘core group’, ‘pioneer group’ or ‘Eurozone’.

    If ESDU will be a “defence Eurozone”, what would be its “euro”? In other words, what would be the qualities that would distinguish ESDU members from non-members? The most detailed ESDU blueprint that the EU has so far produced has come from the EP.

    In a 2016 resolution, the Parliament expressed that an ESDU should, inter alia, offer guarantees and capabilities to EU member states beyond their individual ones, create a Council format for defence ministers, and turn the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE) into a full committee.[4] These are all good ideas, which should be implemented in their own right.

    A new blueprint

    However, such reforms are mainly about fine tuning the EU’s existing institutional structure. While this might improve the EU’s ability to respond to threats, they would not generate the types of capabilities that would be needed to protect European citizens and their territory.

    As the 2016 EPP Paper on Security and Defence states, this is the purpose of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Given that it should also be the main purpose of ESDU, it should be created around two main deliverables that would boost the EU’s ‘defence’ dimension: (1) an unqualified mutual defence commitment, and (2) a military Schengen area.

    First, given that not all EU members are NATO members and therefore not under the protection of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, ESDU participants should commit to defend each other in the event that one of them becomes subject to armed aggression through all means in their power, including military force.

    Although this sounds similar in tone to Article 42(7) of the Treaty on EU (TEU), the so-called mutual assistance clause, it is not. Article 42(7)’s mutual assistance commitment is rendered hollow by its second paragraph, which states that it ‘shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States’.[5] This means that the Article 42(2) can be interpreted in a highly subjective way. Thus, a genuine ESDU should include an unqualified mutual defence commitment.

    Second, in ESDU, there should be minimal to no obstacles to moving military forces and equipment from one state to another. At the moment, such movement is hindered by various bureaucratic requirements, such as passport checks at some border crossings.

    Furthermore, infrastructure problems, such as roads and bridges that cannot accommodate large military vehicles, create additional obstacles to the movement of military personnel and equipment in Europe. This is something that has also been called for by NATO, which means that it would also further boost EU-NATO cooperation.

    Where do we go from here? 

    ESDU should be created around an unqualified mutual defence commitment and a military Schengen area. These would form the core of the new defence core group, or the “euro” of a “defence Eurozone”.

    In addition, ESDU could include looser commitments, such as a commitment by the participating EU member states to invest a certain percentage of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in defence; and a commitment to improve the EU’s existing rapid response capabilities, particularly the battlegroups. However, given that such commitments could eventually be ignored, they should not form the backbone of an ESDU.

    [1] Germany, Federal Government, White Paper 2016 on German Security Policy and the Future of the Bundeswehr (19 September 2016), 73.

    [2] European Commission, Reflection Paper on the Future of European Defence, COM(2017) 315 (7 June 2017), 11, 14.

    [3] Art. 42(6), Treaty on European Union (TEU).

    [4] European Parliament, ‘European Parliament resolution of 22 November 2016 on the European Defence Union (2016/2052(INI))’.

    [5] Art. 42(7), TEU.

    Niklas Nováky Defence EU Institutions European Union Foreign Policy Security

    Niklas Nováky

    The European Security and Defence Union: how should it look like?


    30 Oct 2017

  • For Europe, four security challenges predominate: Russian revanchism, Islamist terrorism, the migrant crisis, and the associated problems of civil war and state collapse in the Middle East and North Africa.

    For India, the environment looks very different. Its two most important security challenges are cross-border terrorism from Pakistan-based militant groups, often sponsored by the Pakistani intelligence services, and the steady growth of China’s economic and military presence along India’s land and maritime borders, including as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

    These differing priorities risk pushing Europe and India in different directions. India’s hope is that an improved US–Russia relationship will create a thaw in Europe, allowing all parties—India, Europe and the US—to focus on addressing China’s rise. But there is little sign of such a shift at present. However, there is considerable room for greater convergence on a range of issues, such as maritime security, Afghanistan and counterterrorism.

    Read the full article in the December 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Shashank Joshi Defence European Union Middle East Security

    Shashank Joshi

    The prospects for EU–India security cooperation


    30 Oct 2017

  • Today, the Middle East is again rent by religious/confessional strife, again embroiled in conflicts pertaining to the relationship between the sacred and secular spheres. Religious fundamentalism is pitted against assimilation into the globalised modern order. It seems like nothing has changed since Judas Maccabee led the fight of fundamentalist Jews against assimilation into the cosmopolitan order of Hellenism.

    This time, the protagonist is Islam, the third of the Abrahimic religions, but the stage of conflict is the whole world. The Maccabee revolt, in the second century B.C. was a localised affair, with regional ramifications. The thirty years’ war, which ultimately contributed to the disengagement of the secular and the religious for the second Abrahimic religion, namely, Christianity, was a much broader affair. It spanned the whole of Europe; part civil war, part war by proxy, it presents a continental model, partly foreshadowing the current global conflict.

    Like the Maccabee revolt, the islamist resistance to integration into the secular order of modernity is both a civil war, raging within Islamic societies between religious radicals (in Greek terminology, zealots), and liberals (in Maccabee terminology, irreligious), as well as an international war against the foreign powers, perceived as their patrons, (the Hellenistic state of Antiochus Epiphanes, western states, especially in Europe). In both cases, the ire of fundamentalists was roused by adoption of secular values, the Greek gymnasium, or western dress and education. Islamic fundamentalist refusal to compromise on the Law, sharia, echoes almost to the letter, the Maccabee position.: “Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees…we will not follow them: we shall not swerve from our own religion either to right or left.” Maccabee Book I also tells us that Judas went through the towns of Judah eliminating the irreligious from them.

    The current conflict is two-fold. There is the hard bloody war against armed extremists, like the IS, al Qaida, Boko Haram, etc. Perhaps more significantly, the whole world is involved in a soft Kulturkampf to determine how much of the letter of the Law, sharia, is compatible with the principles of the modern constitutional state, and with the humanistic values of contemporary society. It concerns issues of women and minority rights, the penal code and freedom of belief and expression. On a shrill note, it also involves a philosophical dispute about the human body, as object of pride or damnation, which has its roots in antiquity. It may seem trivial that the controversy about swimming lessons, the hijabburqa, and more recently, bourkini, have captured the limelight in the current conflict. But let us remember that the Maccabee resentment was sparked by the introduction of the Greek gymnasium, where nudity was in the order of the day.

    The ideological and military aspects of this global conflict are inextricably bound. The leveling effect of modernity (anticipated by Hellenism), which espouses the principles of equality and universalism are anathema to all particularistic groups, and ideologies which claim superiority on religious, doctrinal or racial grounds (chosen people, proletariat, master race, etc.). The three Abrahimic religions share a world-view which claims distinction for their followers through possession of absolute, because revealed, truth. This sense of superiority can imply disdain for, if not abhorrence of the ‘Other’, an antagonistic potential which can easily be manipulated by militants to justify violence, (in the form of the Jewish Ban, Christian holy war, Islamic Jihad).

    Depriving militants of doctrinal cover for their violence requires an effort of introspection and doctrinal revision. While Reformation and enlightenment have helped reconcile the Judeo-Christian mainstream with the universal scheme of modernity, Islam has largely failed to undergo a similar renewal. Tentative efforts in that direction, particularly intensified in the first half of the 20th century, have unfortunately been reversed in recent decades. Two factors have contributed to this setback:

    1. The rising fortunes of the Islamic oil states, especially Saudi Arabia.
    2. The ambivalent role of the West.  

       In hindsight, it may appear that the oil age has caused a sea change in the geo-cultural map of the Middle East, perhaps comparable with the diversion of the trade routes to the Cape of Good Hope, in the sixteenth century. While the latter has caused primarily economic demise, the former has produced a cultural eclipse.  

        The oil bonanza of the second half of the twentieth century has removed the political and cultural centre of gravity in the Middle East from its historical locus, Egypt, with over a century of reform (1820-1950) to the Arabian Peninsula, untouched by modernisation and westernisation till as late as the 1960s and 1970s. Western technology and western economic interests, namely, the thirst for cheap oil, has put undreamt of resources at the disposal of the stringent schools of Wahhabism and Salafism, turning them from a primitive fundamentalist fringe to a powerful ideological stream, transcending the borders of Islamic states, and ironically, inimical to western values. 

    The part of the West in the rise of militant Islamism is, however, not only a tragic, accidental by-product of blind interest-mongering and technical savoir-faire. Equally responsible are the misguided realpolitik, and opportunism of American foreign policy. For decades, the United States has fostered Saudi Arabia, in total denial of its own liberal values. During the cold war, but especially, starting with the Afghan war in 1979, the West has not shied from using jihadi groups, feeding on Saudi ideology and funds, to thwart Russia and its regional authoritarian proxies. Everyone is paying the price of this cynical support.

    As the world strives to contain religious totalitarian ideology and the terror it has unleashed, it is unwise to escalate militarily and slacken intellectually. Opening a window for so-called moderate Islamism, by accommodating some of its seemingly harmless demands, like the dress-code, in the name of tolerance, smacks of appeasement. Measures of unfreedom cannot be justified in the name of freedom. Or in Karl Popper’s words, “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”

    Maridi el Nahas Defence Islam Security

    Maridi el Nahas

    It takes the whole world to tame the monster of terrorism


    22 Sep 2017

  • While most attention over the past few years has been centred on Russia’s aggression and the critical situation in the Middle East, very few analysts notice a security emergency on the EU’s south-eastern border. 

    Only in 2016, the Greek General Staff recorded 1,671 national airspace violations by Turkish aircraft. The size of this breach can be easier understood if one considers that, during the same period, NATO jets scrambled to intercept Russian military planes 780 times, which is the highest recorded number since the Cold War.

    The root of tensions in the Aegean is Ankara’s efforts to question the existing status quo in the area, both in the air and at sea. This antagonism has led the two countries three times (1976, 1987 and 1996) to the brink of war. According to international norms, the national airspace should correspond to territorial waters. However, Greece, since 1931, established its airspace to 10nm, while its territorial waters remain at 6nm. This international paradox was never challenged by Turkey before its invasion in Cyprus.

    The reasoning behind the Turkish stance derives from its claims that the 4nm difference between Greek airspace and its territorial waters should be considered as international space over which Greece has no authority. The situation became more complex when, in 1995, the Turkish Parliament declared that any possible extension of the Greek territorial waters up to a limit of 12nm – and subsequently the national airspace – would automatically result in an act of war (casus belli).

    Over the space of the past seventeen years, Turkish fighter jets – many of them equipped with combat arms – have been violating Greek airspace (see below), resulting in interception attempts by Greek forces and, in many cases, dangerous air engagements and dogfights, even over inhabited islands of the Eastern Aegean.

    Photo source: Global Military Review

    In reality, Turkey’s revisionism in the Aegean can be traced to its existential fear of possible geopolitical, economic and military isolation. Taking into consideration the political instability and security threats that the country is facing over the space of the past five years, one could easily understand how fragile peace on NATO’s Eastern flank is. In that frame, Erdogan’s rhetoric on possible change and renegotiation of the Lausanne Treaty – which defined, in 1923, the boundaries of the modern state of Turkey – endangers not only Greco-Turkish relations, but the entire South-East Mediterranean region.

    The frequency of Turkish violations and infringements also dramatically affects and puts in harm’s way civil aviation in the area. The concentration of the Greek islands, coupled with the intensity and the heights that the warplanes can reach, increase the probability of another fatal accident in the Aegean, as has happened in the past.  

    Another important aspect of this secret war is the financial cost. According to Greek officials, every time a Greek fighter jet scrambles, the cost rises to €8,000 – €12,000 per hour. Of course, in the case of collision, this cost exceeds the €50,000,000 per plane without counting the loss of human lives. As it is easily understood, these numbers for a country in deep recession are onerous and deprive other sectors more vital for the daily life of the Greek citizen of important resources.  

    Unfortunately, during the last four decades, the EU and especially NATO, have not paid the necessary attention to Turkish bellicosity. It is evident that the Turkish political and diplomatic fluctuations should alert the West. Impartiality and apathy with regards to Turkish hostile behaviour towards its neighbours should not be the norm.

    Erdogan and Putin’s recent marriage of convenience has raised many analysts’ doubt over Turkey’s intentions. Therefore, NATO should not underestimate the fact that Greece remains the oldest member of both NATO and the EU in the region, committing – even under the current horrendous financial situation – 2.38% of her GDP to defence, and thus to the Western alliance.

    In fact, the Aegean dispute has not been adequately debated. It is not solely a Greco-Turkish problem. It should be perceived as an EU problem, as Greece is called upon to protect the Union’s external borders in the vital region of the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU should finally define, in the clearest terms, its current land, sea and air borders, in order to be prepared to protect them against any external threat.

    An idea would be the creation of a common European airspace, by establishing territorial sea and airspace 12nm, throughout the EU. This decision might discourage further provocations and hostile acts by third countries, as well as defusing tensions between the two bitter friends in the Aegean.   

    Panos Tasiopoulos Defence EU Member States Technology

    Panos Tasiopoulos

    The untold war: dogfights in the Aegean


    19 Jul 2017

  • The rising terrorist threats in the region have compelled Morocco to enhance the protection of its vast territory, long borders, 34 million citizens and over 10 million visitors per year. Morocco’s comprehensive security strategy combines a wide range of policies which link the improvement of the socio-economic situation to the capacity to anticipate the risk of terrorism and the operational aspects of the strategy.

    Security governance and the modernisation of the security forces, religious reform and the promotion of moderate Islam, the involvement of civil society, and close international cooperation, including religious diplomacy, are all key to preventing terrorism and countering extremism. Reforms to improve human security and to lift vulnerable groups out of poverty and exclusion have contributed to enhancing sustainable security.

    An example for many, Morocco still has a few big challenges ahead, especially to provide quality education, both to ‘immunise’ the minds of the youth against extremism and to create jobs so that hope can be restored to an overwhelmingly young population.

    Read the full article in the June 2017 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Assia Bensalah Alaoui Defence Mediterranean Neighbourhood Policy North Africa Security

    Assia Bensalah Alaoui

    Morocco’s security strategy: preventing terrorism and countering extremism


    07 Jul 2017

  • On June 7th the European Commission will put forward its proposals to enhance European military cooperation, framed as ‘The Future of the European Defence’. These proposals are very timely and necessary and will hopefully be embraced by all EU Member states. However, it is important that we don’t fall into a trap when we speak about European defence, because what is possible in the future is vastly different to the realities of European defence today.

    The conclusion reached in various EU member states is that under US President Donald Trump, we can no longer rely on NATO as much as we did before, especially considering the increased aggressiveness of Putin-led Russia. Therefore, as a backup plan, we will need to boost European defence cooperation and increase our independent military capabilities. It is possible for this to happen within the NATO framework rather than contradicting or overlapping with it.

    The logic is solid, but there is a danger in underestimating the urgency of the situation. The security that NATO provides cannot be replaced by any European defence cooperation in the near future. The fact is that, since 1990, European real military capabilities have decreased dramatically.

    In many countries, real operation units have fallen to one third of what they were at their peak in the 90s, and even then they were operationally dependent on US support. When we examine the figures, we can see that they paint a stark picture for the EU’s military capabilities without the help of the US.

    Within the NATO framework, the US spends 3 times more on its military than the combined total of the EU member states. And this ratio has not been not improving: from 2007 to 2015, the US increased their defence spending by an average of 3.1%, whilst the EU28 decreased their military spending by an average of 14.5%.

    Figure 1: Changes in Western European Combat Battalions (1990-2015)
    Source: IISS, The Military Balance 2016

    The combat battalion figures of EU member states are also in sharp decline. Germany, for example, has decreased its total battalion count of 215 battalions in 1990 to just 34 in 2015. In key military equipment, the EU28 have collectively decreased their total stock of battle tanks by 70%, helicopters by 38%, and patrol and combat boats by 54%.

    Across the board, there is one trend we can see in relation to EU defence spending and that trend is decline. Europeans still cannot and could not confront a large-scale military intervention from Russia effectively without the help of the United States.

    Crucially, major military upgrades take years if not decades to complete. A good example is Russia, which started a major reform of its military after the war in Georgia in 2008, when they realised that they had a large, but ineffective army.

    The reforms came with unquestionable political and financial support from Putin, who even cut domestic budgets such as social welfare and healthcare in order to pay for this military reform (a move which would be extremely unpopular in Western European states). However, even though Russia has invested massively in its military since 2008, Russia’s military reform is still far from complete

    When we talk about the future of the common European Defence without the US, we need to realise that we as Europeans have for decades been totally reliant on the support of the Unites States. The argument for a strong European defence also assumes that European military spending would be greatly increased and that enhanced military cooperation would turn to some form of integration.

    It is also necessary to point out that if Europe is to build a military force which is capable of facing a worst-case scenario, then we need to speak about European nuclear weapon capabilities.

    The Commission’s proposals for enhanced military cooperation are very welcome, we need more initiatives like them, and we need to embrace them. Investing in the future of European military cooperation is the only solution to independently maintain the integrity of the EU in the long term. However, in the short term, this goal is not possible without the support of the United States.

    We can be disappointed by what President Trump did or did not say during his last European visit, but we should not neglect or fail to give credit to the fact that operationally the US continues to invest in Europe as it did before.

    Just look for example at the US troops in the Baltics or the US bilateral defence cooperation agreement with Estonia. When we evaluate our investment in our transatlantic relationship with the United States, we need to take into account that so far nothing has changed in US-EU defence cooperation.

    Whilst taking steps to enhancing European military cooperation and common capabilities, the EU member states need to continue the modernisation of their military and increase their independent capabilities. To achieve a genuine European Defence Union, this Union needs to be built on the modern and fully operative units of the EU Member states.

    Tomi Huhtanen Defence EU Member States EU-Russia Security Transatlantic

    Tomi Huhtanen

    European defence can only be achieved by closing the capabilities gap


    06 Jun 2017

  • Donald Trump has repeatedly chastened European NATO members for spending less than 2% of their GDP on defence. In spite of recent reassuring declarations, his commitment to NATO has seemed wavering, and he displayed a readiness to coordinate with Russia in the Middle East.

    Should the Trump administration reach a similar understanding with the Kremlin on Eastern Europe, the Europeans will shed tears of regret for not having followed his advice and invested in their defensive capabilities earlier.

    Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics. And the Baltic States are next on the firing line. Urgent actions are needed in this field.

    First, defence spending needs to be increased. West Europeans have relied upon the USA since the 1940s for their own security, de facto freeriding on US taxpayers in this field. With 23 European NATO members below the 2% threshold in defence spending, it is clear that Europeans have overlooked their national security for too long.

    The time has now come for them to invest more on it. All of the European NATO member states increasing their defence spending to 2% of their GDP will send a powerful message to the Kremlin that they are serious about protecting Europe’s security and independence.

    Russia’s aggression in Georgia and Ukraine leaves little doubt as to the real unwillingness of the Kremlin to respect the sovereignty of the former soviet republics. 

    Second, European battlegroups need to complement NATO troops in the Baltic States. Increasing defence budgets does not instantly create a safer security environment. In a 2016 report, RAND made clear that the current national defence forces of the Baltic States and the NATO units stationed there are insufficient to hold off the neighbouring Russian forces, should the latter decide to invade. Germany and other NATO members have since contributed to forming battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland.

    However, the size of NATO’s battlegroups is negligible compared to that of the Russian forces they face. Establishing permanent European battlegroups of significant size, with the necessary equipment to deter Russian aggression, would reduce the EU’s vulnerability in the east, and perhaps lead to an improvement in its relations with Russia, as the Kremlin will have to accept that it cannot encroach upon its European neighbours’ territory.

    According to the RAND report, this would cost around $2.7 billion, which is far less than what would become available if countries reached the 2% threshold in defence spending.

    Third, the supply of military hardware for the battlegroups needs to be homogenised. Each member state using unique military equipment takes away the option of lending that hardware to one another. Lending military hardware contributes to cutting down the costs of transferring it, and it is an invaluable asset, as troops in warzones could use leased equipment right away.

    For example, Greek F-16 and Mirage 2000 pilots, being experts in intercepting Turkish military aircraft violating Greek airspace, could assist in the protection of the Baltic States’ airspace using allied jets of the same type. Creating defence equipment homogeneity requires political will. So far the EU has been unsuccessful in creating military interoperability. Nonetheless, this should become a priority in order to secure European borders.

    Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states.

    The President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker, has repeatedly spoken in favour of establishing a single European defence force. That currently being unfeasible, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) needs to be focused on the creation of battlegroups in member-states under threat.

    Assuming that all NATO member states reach the 2% objective of defence spending over GDP that would still not deter Russia from being aggressive towards its neighbours. The fact that the European NATO member states spend on defence five times the Russian defence budget, and remain unable to secure Eastern Europe is embarrassing.

    Europeans need to direct their militaries into defending the entire EU, and not just individual European states. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars the German states were facing similar threats to their existence by France and Russia. The Germans established the Federal Army to defend themselves, which was a collection of the armed forces of the member states of the German Confederation.

    The EU could imitate this model in the near future, while bearing in mind that the Federal Army fell apart in 1866 due to the lack in commitment of several of its members. Thus, even more ambition may be needed in the long run. 

    Konstantinos Lentakis Defence EU Member States Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Konstantinos Lentakis

    Beyond 2%: establishing a true European defence force


    10 May 2017

  • “People tend to forget that it is not just about pro-bono work in the European neighborhood; it is also our own interests that are at stake there.” This point, made by Martens Centre Executive Tomi Huhtanen, kicked off a debate organised in Brussels on 31 January 2017 on the strategic rethink of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

    The EU’s current ENP policy is focused on supporting democratic transformation and creating economic opportunities in its neighbourhood through technical cooperation and economic integration.

    But with growing instability including the Brexit decision, rising Euroscepticism, new ‘hybrid warfare’ threats, an assertive Russia, the rise of Islamic State and declining US engagement in European security, Europe has to take bold and decisive action to secure its long-term interests.

    As the spillover effects of instability in the regions outside of the EU are taking a significant toll on the Union, rethinking the way it deals with its neighbourhood has to play a central part in the EU’s Global Strategy.

    According to Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current member of the Georgian Parliament, “the EU must graduate from a global actor to a geopolitical actor.” In order to achieve this, she argues for a pragmatic, yet principled and creative approach to EU’s policies in its neighbourhood.

    EU institutions think in five or ten year terms. But if you operate in Georgia or in Libya you only have the luxury of planning up to one month in advance. Salome Samadashvili, former EU Ambassador and current Georgian MP

    Sandra Kalniete, Latvian Member of the European Parliament added that countries in the neighbourhood need to be assessed case-by-case; for too long, the EU has been trying to apply a one-size-fits-all approach that has not benefited neither the EU, nor its partners.

    During the event, Kalniete also emphasised a shift “from rule-based to deal-based diplomacy” taken by the new US administration; however, she maintained that the EU needs to stay true to its values while projecting its power abroad.

    Not giving up our values while adding more pragmatism to the way Europe deals with its neighbourhood was a point also echoed by Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

    In ten years from now China will be an inevitable factor in EU’s neighborhood policy towards the Mediterranean. Bruno Lété, Security and Defence Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States

    Subsequently, he argued for more short-term flexibility rather than long-term planning on the part of the EU. His third recommendation was that any successful foreign policy needs to be coupled with the ability to project power; this is where, according to Lété, NATO and EU-NATO cooperation come into play. Rather than debating where to place shared defence assets, the West needs to work more on efficient ways of delivering training, education and financial support to its partners.  

    Defence Development Foreign Policy Neighbourhood Policy Security

    EU’s foreign policy needs values and muscle to survive

    Other News

    01 Feb 2017

  • Russian officials have had to contain their glee in monitoring recent political events in America and Europe. They appear to think their days in the cold may soon be over. Much has been made of President-elect Donald Trump’s wish to improve relations with Moscow, but the last news out of France appears even more auspicious to Moscow.

    The far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, is known for her pro-Putin sympathies. Now, with François Fillon’s nomination as the center-right candidate, both major contenders in next year’s French presidential election are favorably disposed toward Russia.

    These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West. Since the emergence of the Islamic State and the proliferation of terrorist attacks in Europe and America, many Europeans and Americans appear to view Moscow’s aggression against its neighbors, such as Ukraine and Georgia, as an increasingly esoteric problem.

    Particularly after Russia’s intervention in Syria, even on the right many now view Russia not as a threat to the West but as a natural ally in defeating the jihadi threat.

    These warmer feelings towards Russia are based, mainly, on changing threat perceptions in the West.

    While this notion is gaining popularity, it is at best the triumph of hope over experience, and at worst a dangerous delusion. Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution. In fact, leaders in Moscow have a track record of manipulating radical Islam whenever that has suited their purposes – including systematic collusion with Islamic extremists. A few examples illustrate this policy.

    Exhibit one is the twenty-year insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus. In this conflict, the forces fighting for independence from Russia were divided between secular nationalists and Islamic radicals. Because the secular nationalists enjoyed considerable legitimacy both in the West and among the local population, Moscow actively encouraged the growth of the jihadi elements, which were disliked locally and anathema to the West.

    Moscow worked hard to kill off the leaders of Chechnya’s secular nationalists. By contrast, there is compelling evidence of collusion between Russia’s secret services and the region’s most notorious radicals, such as Shamil Basayev and Arbi Barayev, and of systematic Russian infiltration of the radical Islamic groups from the North Caucasus.

    As Russia imposed a brutal proxy regime in Chechnya, it sought to leave Chechens and foreigners alike with a binary choice: tolerate the brutal Kadyrov regime, or side with the jihadis.

    Russia’s interaction with radical Islam over two decades shows that it is part of the problem, not the solution.

    Exhibit two is the case of Russia’s foreign fighters in Syria. Ahead of the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, held next to the North Caucasus, Moscow in spite of its infiltration of jihadi networks faced an acute risk of terrorist attacks. So, as Novaya Gazeta’s Elena Milashina has showed, Russia’s Federal Security Service organized a “pipeline” to facilitate the export of North Caucasian radicals to fight in Syria. Would-be fighters were provided passports and safe passage; some were recruited by Russian intelligence services.

    Indeed, foreign fighters from Russia have reached higher in the hierarchy of the Islamic State than any other foreign fighters, and work alongside Saddam Hussein’s former Baathist officers who – similarly – have deep connections to Moscow dating to the Soviet period. Is this a coincidence? The exact nature of these relationships is by nature murky, but the level of state infiltration of the jihadi circles in Russia at the very least raises serious questions about Moscow’s links to the Islamic State.

    But, critics may counter, has not Russia’s intervention in Syria served to wipe out these jihadis? Again, while this is the Russian rhetoric, the record shows otherwise. Never mind that Russia has tried, falsely, to take credit for the American drone strikes that have decimated the Islamic State leadership.

    By now, it is widely established that Russian airstrikes have not primarily targeted the Islamic State at all, but other rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, as in Aleppo. In reality, Moscow is taking a page from the playbook in Chechnya: by eliminating the rebel groups, it strives to mold a situation that presents a binary choice, and where the only alternative to the Assad regime is the Islamic State.

    Exhibit three is Afghanistan, where Moscow since last year established contacts with the Taliban insurgency, which is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers. Citing the need to fight the Islamic State franchise in the country, Moscow began intelligence sharing programs with the Taliban, and provided this jihadi group with international legitimacy.

    Even Russia’s claims to be a bulwark against Islamic radicalization in nearby Central Asia fails to hold up to scrutiny. In fact, it is by now established that most Central Asians fighting in Syria or Iraq are not radicalized in their home countries, where governments have a solid track record of countering radicalization.

    In fact, the large majority of Central Asian recruits to Islamic radical movements have been radicalized while toiling as temporary and often illegal workers in Russia itself. Far from being a bulwark against extremism, Russia is domestically an incubator of radical Islam.

    This bleak picture raises the question: if Russia is not fighting Islamic extremism, then what are its real goals? The answer is twofold. First, in places a different as Chechnya and Syria, Russia actively tries to shape the actors on the battlefield to leave a binary choice between Islamic extremists and brutal strongmen dependent on Moscow.

    Second, in theaters as diverse as Afghanistan and Syria, Russia’s focus is squarely to undermine the national security interests of the United States. In Afghanistan, Russia is supporting the Taliban against Islamic State; while in Syria it claims to fight ISIS, but in fact ignores it and instead targets other rebel groups. The common denominator? Russia alternatively bolsters America’s main enemy, or actively targets its local allies.

    The notion that Russia is, or could be, an ally against the threat of radical Islam is a dangerous delusion. Russia’s record makes it clear that it sees America, not Islamic extremism, as its main enemy. So long as Vladimir Putin runs Russia, Russia will remain part of the problem, not the solution.

    Svante Cornell Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Svante Cornell

    Russia: an Enabler of Jihad?


    16 Jan 2017

  • The latest coup attempt in Turkey came as a surprise both due to the baffling logic behind it and the awkwardness of its implementation. Of course, many reasons existed that made some in the army unhappy with Erdoğan. However, the leadership of the army had been already replaced with Erdoğan’s loyalists, while the population would not support a coup.

    Many both within and outside Turkey disapprove of his authoritarian tendencies: the resumed war against the Kurds; his early support of Islamist rebels in Syria; the crackdown on democratic freedoms and free presshumiliating apology to Russia’s Putin after all previous sabre-rattling; and, finally, his desire to change the constitution aiming at super-presidency. However, Erdoğan still enjoys the support of about half of Turkey’s population, due to the prosperity he brought to many, his appeal to traditionalist feeling, clever populism and macho charisma.

    Erdoğan, like many opportunistic rulers, is excellent at turning even the most unfavourable circumstances to his personal benefit. This pattern is being reiterated once again, as the coup is used as a pretext for doing whatever he intended to do anyway – pursuing a one-man rule by cleansing of all opposition. Still, the coup serves as a gloomy harbinger of future troubles, as Erdoğan tries to use these events to further strengthen his already formidable authority and clout. However, it is far from obvious that this will be equally beneficial for the country’s democratic future or even prosperity.

    Indeed, the writing is on the wall for Turkey. Apart from the slowing of the Turkish economy, one may expect falling investment amid potential instability and civil strife, as well as scared-off tourist flows diverted to safer destinations. If capital punishment is introduced that will mean a long-term goodbye to European integration plans, while cooling relations with Europe will hurt both trade and the international standing of the country.

    Immediately after the coup, Federica Mogherini explicitly warned Turkey that countries allowing the death penalty cannot join the EU. However, John Kerry’s warning sounded even more chilling – while America stands squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey, NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy. Now, if Turkey’s government is ready to drop the Western support and its European aspiration, and even risk losing its NATO membership, it is difficult to imagine any bright future either for the country or its leadership.

    Now one may look at all of this from a totally different, Caucasian perspective. Turkey is one of the key actors in the South Caucasus, and either its weakening or its alienation from the West may damage the currently existing fragile balance and bring around instability, along with strengthening the Russian dominance. After the attempted coup, Erdoğan has applied efforts to restore ties between Turkey and Russia, and such rapprochement may even lead to Turkey’s political realignment.

    Erdoğan’s actions have caused strong criticism from Turkey’s NATO allies for the unproportional crackdown on alleged opponents, while Turkey in its turn has praised Russia for its support since, and Erdogan will visit Russia on 9 August, which now, according to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek “isn’t just our close and friendly neighbor, but also a strategic partner”. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in his turn stated, that Turkey receive “unconditional support” from Russia over the coup attempt, while anti-U.S. sentiment was rising in the country.

    There is one more important development in the Turkey-Russia relationship: beyond lifting all anti-Turkish sanctions introduced after the downing of the Russian military aircraft in Syria, Russian officials started talking about the revival of the South Stream gas pipeline project, which may negatively influence alternative energy projects involving Azerbaijan and Georgia. No doubt such changes may indeed endanger the big-scale projects aiming to bring Caspian gas and oil to the West, with Georgia serving as an important transit hub.

    Some other developments related to events in Turkey can already be expected in the South Caucasus. Turkey’s weakened geopolitical weight or its geopolitical realignment may in turn lead to the dangerous weakening of Azerbaijan’s position vis-à-vis Armenia regarding the Mountainous Karabakh issue and may bring back the flaring of hostilities if not full-blown war.

    Immediately after the coup, Azerbaijan’s president Aliev sent a letter of unequivocal support to Erdogan, but other developments are even more expressive. Already on July 20, Azerbaijan’s Education Ministry announced that an allegedly Gülen-affiliated Qafqas University in Baku has been closed down, and more action along the same lines is expected, as Gülenists have been actively supporting educational institutions both in Azerbaijan and in Georgia.

    But the repercussions of the Turkish coup may go even further, both in reality and in public perception. Even the timing of the recent hostage-taking and violence in Armenia’s capital Yerevan has been paradoxically linked by some observers to developments in Turkey. While in the case of Georgia Turkey can hardly be seen as an important military factor, Turkey’s weakening and the total regional domination of Russia hardly gives grounds for expecting anything good for Georgia’s pro-western aspirations and security.

    On the whole, the recent developments in Turkey give cause for concern and illustrate that the future of the region remains in limbo. 

    Teona Lavrelashvili Defence Democracy Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Security

    Teona Lavrelashvili

    A failed coup in Turkey and its possible repercussions: the view from the Caucasus


    28 Jul 2016

  • Security and defence have become the new front lines of the European project. The time has come to build a Security and Defence Union capable of delivering security to Europe’s citizens and the wider continent in a challenging international environment.

    It should be based on five qualitative leaps: a security strategy for Europe, an institutional revamp, renewed military ambition, integration of defence capabilities and a new partnership with NATO.

    With the forthcoming Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, the follow-up ‘white book’–process and the Commission’s defence action plan, 2016 offers the strategic sequence necessary for the Union to move forward.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Georg Emil Riekeles Defence Leadership Security

    Georg Emil Riekeles

    A Security and Defence Union


    08 Jun 2016

  • The second biggest contingent in Iraq after US forces, contractors have become something of a staple in contemporary conflict resolution and peacekeeping operations. The rise of private security and military firms is not a recent phenomenon. It has been a given since the end of the Cold War, thanks to a particular momentum in the market for force.

    Traditional armed forces have had their budgets cut and have sometimes had to undergo drastic economic reforms. At the same time, the market for force has seen the arrival of huge numbers of highly qualified military personnel. These developments have been beneficial to the rise of private military and security companies. However, they have also exposed the weakness of international law and regulation (and EU regulation in particular) when it comes to dealing with these firms.

    Read the full article in the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Anna van Oeveren Defence Security

    Anna van Oeveren

    ʽCry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war’: regulating private military and security companies


    24 May 2016

  • Over the last 10 years, Russia under Putin has turned into an illiberal empire that is determined to weaken the West as a precondition for its own survival. This fact is still not fully appreciated by those Western leaders who believe that a return to cooperation with Russia is both necessary and possible.

    Germany’s Social Democrats are particularly prominent among these leaders. They intend to use Germany’s 2016 presidency of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to lay the groundwork for a step-by-step confidence-building effort, eventually leading to a new European security architecture. Such hopes are utterly futile. They are based on old illusions about détente and Ostpolitik.

    Moreover, they are understood by the Kremlin to be signs of weakness and appeasement. Instead of answering every Russian act of aggression with new offers for talks, the West should prepare for a long confrontation with Russia, maintain unity, and strengthen defence and deterrence.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence EU-Russia Security

    Roland Freudenstein

    Why there will be no Helsinki II—and why confidence building with Putin’s Russia is a bad idea


    19 May 2016

  • This article examines why the EU should finance defence research. The answers are found in the role the EU increasingly plays in guaranteeing its own security and providing security in Europe’s neighbourhood.

    Against this backdrop, and to compensate for the steady decline in defence research and technology investment, in 2013 the European Commission suggested undertaking preparatory action in this field. This initiative has received support from the European Council and the European Parliament on several occasions.

    The Parliament put itself in the driving seat for establishing a pilot project in the fiscal year 2015. All the ongoing efforts serve the purpose of establishing a fully fledged European Defence Research Programme starting in 2021. This programme could have the added value of catalysing future cooperative defence programmes, thus delivering urgently needed capabilities for European armed forces.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Michael Gahler Defence EU Institutions Security

    Michael Gahler

    The added value of EU defence research


    12 May 2016

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has taken control of the traditional media in Russia: TV, radio and newspapers. As Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has stated, the Kremlin sees the mass media as a ‘weapon’.

    Now Russia’s leadership is trying to take control of social media too, and for this massive operation a new information warfare tool has been mobilised—an army of fake social media Putin-fans, known as ‘trolls’.

    My investigation has discovered that coordinated social media propaganda writers are twisting and manipulating the public debate in Finland, too. Trolls and bots distribute vast amounts of false information in various languages, and target individual citizens for aggressive operations.

    Aggressive trolls have created a feeling of fear among some of my interviewees, causing them to stop making Russia-related comments online. Trolling has had a serious impact on freedom of speech, even outside Russia.

    Thus, it should be viewed as a national security threat that needs to be addressed accordingly. The question is: how should the Kremlin’s trolls and disinformation be countered?

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Jessikka Aro Defence EU-Russia Internet Security Technology

    Jessikka Aro

    The cyberspace war: propaganda and trolling as warfare tools


    12 May 2016

  • Calls for the permanent deployment of substantial combat forces in Eastern European NATO states, primarily in the Baltics and Poland, have been part of the debates on strategy among the member states for years. In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, the defence capabilities of the Eastern European allies must undoubtedly be strengthened.

    However, in light of the yet-to-be-implemented measures that the allies decided upon at the Wales Summit, a more general shift of international security challenges towards ‘hybrid’ warfare scenarios, Russia’s centrality in the Middle East peace process and the long-term viability of the Alliance, permanently deploying substantial combat forces in Eastern Europe would not strengthen the security of Europe and the coherence of NATO.

    Read the full articlein the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Roderich Kiesewetter Ingmar Zielke Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    Roderich Kiesewetter

    Ingmar Zielke

    Permanent NATO deployment is not the answer to European security


    03 May 2016

  • Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, there is no viable alternative on the horizon to NATO’s security umbrella over an expanded Europe. The idea floated a quarter of a century ago that Europe could scale down its defences and even dismantle the North Atlantic Alliance exposed a flawed fixation on an ‘end of history’ scenario that has never materialised. In practice, the forces of state nationalism and imperialist revisionism in Russia have proved stronger than those of liberalism and international cooperation with the West.

    In many respects, a ‘return of history’ scenario has become more evident in and around Europe, with Russia re-emerging as a revanchist power and threatening Europe’s entire eastern flank. In addition, the EU itself faces existential problems, from the financial and institutional to the demographic and political. In a potentially unstable and fracturing continent, NATO is the sole remaining institution that upholds international security. And it may become the sole multinational organisation that can provide Europe with a measure of coherence. Moreover, NATO is the binding glue of the transatlantic link with Washington.

    Read the full article in the June 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Janusz Bugajski Defence EU-Russia Security Transatlantic

    Janusz Bugajski

    Only NATO can defend Europe


    04 Apr 2016

  • Over the past 15 years, Western powers have been engaged in numerous battles in which technology has eventually prevailed over a patient but daring field presence. Today’s adversaries, such as Islamic State, are well aware of this cultural bias: they are using our post 9/11 exhaustion to grab territories and spread offensive ideology. Western countries have no choice but to adapt partly to its adversaries’ methods. Stability and peace will require cold cultural compromises as the pursuit of our interests and values requires a new tolerance threshold towards violence.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Michael Benhamou Defence Security

    Michael Benhamou

    The West and the return of violence


    01 Dec 2015

  • In late July EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini went to Tehran. The visit was meant to show that the Islamic Republic was now on its way to mending fences with the EU and that a new, more peaceful chapter was to begin between Iran and its adversaries after the nuclear deal.

    The pictures from Mogherini’s meeting with the Iranian Foreign Secretary show a beaming Zarif and a veiled Mogherini. It is a picture that makes it abundantly clear that the nuclear deal, now also signed by the US Congress, is an all-out win for the Iranian regime. Iran has got everything that it wanted, and then some.

    The image also depicts the complete capitulation of the EU. By pandering to the very conservative interpretation of Islam that the Iranian regime follows, Mogherini, knowingly or not, sent out a message—easily understood in the region—that the EU had succumbed to Iran without question. No wonder Zarif is beaming happily.

    Read the full FREE article published in the December 2015 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.

    Magnus Norell Defence Foreign Policy Middle East

    Magnus Norell

    A really bad deal: the Iran nuclear deal and its implications


    30 Nov 2015

  • Ukraine is on the brink of financial collapse. It is not able to meet interest payments it is due to make this week. Its GDP fell by 6.8% last year and is liable to fall by an even greater extent this year. Meanwhile, it is having to defend itself against a neighbour which guaranteed its frontiers as recently as 1994.

    Instead of stepping forward to help Ukraine financially, the EU and the United States are both leaving the job to the IMF. The IMF is offering Ukraine $40 billion, whereas the EU says it can only manage $2 billion. The European Union has already extended forty times as much credit to Greece as it has given to Ukraine, whose population is four times that of Greece. If this ratio reflects the EU’s real priority, it is unbalanced.

    GDP per head in Greece is, after all, about three times that of Ukraine. Like Greece, Ukraine has a lot to do to create a functioning and efficient legal and administrative system, stamp out corruption, and collect taxes fully and fairly. But Ukraine is having to do this while  recovering  from the effects of a Communist system which was imposed on it from outside since 1919, whereas Greece has been the democratic shaper of its own policies for many years.

    Greece is, of course, in the EU and the eurozone, while Ukraine is not. However, both are in Europe and both aspire to a democratic European future.

    Furthermore, Ukraine had it borders guaranteed in the Budapest declaration of 1994 by EU countries, including Britain and France, and by Russia and the US,  in return for Ukraine giving up nuclear weapons. Despite this, Ukraine was invaded and a portion of its territory annexed by one of its guarantors, Russia, because Ukraine wanted to make a modest cooperation agreement with the EU.

    Notwithstanding that, the EU is now being stingy in helping Ukraine in its financial crisis, and is fixated instead on the drama in Athens.

    Ukrainians believe they have a European destiny, and are prepared to die for it.

    The Russian leadership, on the other hand, believes that Ukraine, with its Russian speaking minority, is in their sphere of influence, and sees a link up of Ukraine with the EU as a form of foreign interference in their backyard. One would have to respond that this view is not in accord with Russia’s guarantee to Ukraine of 1994, nor with international law.

    The entire post World War Two European security order rests on the acceptance of international law. Similarly, any prospect of voluntary nuclear disarmament in future must depend on solemn obligations, like the Budapest commitment given to Ukraine in 1994 being seen to be honoured.

    In Ukraine’s case, all the EU is expected to do is provide financial help. But if Ukraine falls, the Russian threat may move on to other countries, with Russian speaking minorities, like Latvia and Estonia, which are NATO members  and  to whom most EU countries (not Ireland) have a solemn, Treaty-based obligation to provide military help if their  territory is threatened.

    Meanwhile, the Greek government, while looking for new loans and debt write-offs from the EU, is ostentatiously aligning itself to the very country that has invaded Ukraine, Russia. It is looking for more credit from the EU, without implementing reforms that would generate long term growth, which would enable those loans to be repaid.

    In contrast, the new Ukrainian government is implementing painful reforms to increase the growth potential of its economy, for example by eliminating inefficient consumption subsidies, which have quadrupled gas prices paid by Ukrainian households. Parts of its reform programme are being delayed in its parliament by opposition figures like Julia Timoshenko, once the darling of the Western media and still part of the EPP family to which Fine Gael and the German CDU belong.

    Ukraine’s financial situation is now so critical that President Putin believes that all he has to do is sit and wait, and Ukraine will collapse back into Russian control simply because, in the absence of large western credits, it will run out of money.

    If this happens, and if the EU continues to do little or nothing to stop it beyond talk, that will deal a huge blow of confidence in the EU’s ability to defend its values and help its friends.  Other countries on Russia’s perimeter will they too feel that they have to make a deal with Putin rather than rely on the EU.

    In Ukraine’s case, European countries do not have a Treaty obligation to give military help. But, in their own interest, they should give generous financial help to ensure that a success in Ukraine does not embolden Russia to undermine countries like Latvia and Estonia, which also have Russian speaking minorities (but where most European countries do have a Treaty based military obligations to help).

    When questioned in a recent Pew poll as to whether they would be willing to use force to defend another neighbouring NATO country that found itself in conflict with Russia, 51% of Italians, 53% of French and 58% of Germans answered that they would not.

    If that frightful dilemma is to be avoided, it would be wise for Europeans to draw the line in Ukraine now by providing the country with enough financial help to build a properly functioning state that can pay its way and look after itself, as well as be capable on its own to resist intimidation from its big neighbour.

    John Bruton Crisis Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia

    John Bruton

    Ukraine and Greece: Has Europe set its priorities right?


    15 Jun 2015

  • This week, Europe gears up for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Sure enough, Russian propaganda does everything to use the narrative of Russia the liberator – then and now – for their purpose of whipping up patriotic fervour. At the same time, the Central Europeans from the Baltics to Bulgaria have a different view: The Soviet victory of 1945 brought them from one catastrophe to another one. And today, Putin’s Russia is a clear and present danger to their freedom, and their ambitions to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the Eastern Neighbourhood. So there is a clear alternative to Russia’s narrative about war and about its own place in history.

    But there is another war we should think and talk about: Russia’s blatant aggression against Ukraine. The West should not have been as surprised as it was, back in March 2014. The writing had been on the wall since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 – and its ongoing violation of the ceasefire agreement afterwards. The Kremlin is waging war against Russia’s neighbours because it sees successful democracies in the region as a threat to its own power. It needs the narrative of the alleged past humiliation at the hands of the West in order to justify its aggression.  It needs the confrontation with the West in order to distract attention from the failure of the economy. In the words of Ed Lucas, the West’s reaction to this war has been mixed, at best.  It is true, we have managed to maintain unity on sanctions – so far. And yes, NATO has reacted robustly by beefing up its capacities to come to the rescue of Balts and others threatened by Russian aggression. Despite this, the assessments among Europeans of the significance of Russia’s breach of basic norms have not converged. And, no, the danger of an unravelling of EU and NATO solidarity is not over.

    This brings us to the war that Russia is now threatening to bring upon the West every day in its media. In March, 2014, Kremlin media mogul Dmitri Kisilyov stated that Russia was ‘the only country in the world really capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash’. Ever since then, the Kremlin has hammered the message home to Russians that war with the West is looming. This is accompanied by the narrative that the ‘decadent’ West will roll over if you only threaten it firmly enough. Look at the ending of the infamous ruski okupant video and you know what we have to react to now.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war. This apparent paradox is at the core of what has come to be called military deterrence in modern times, but in reality is a principle of conflict as old as mankind itself. In order to keep your adversary from attacking you, you have to prepare your defences, including counter-attack, precisely because you don’t want to have to use your weapons. So we must re-learn deterrence. We have forgotten about it in the last 25 years, as articulated by Anne Applebaum last year. Some of the members of our political classes have also been traumatised by the ‘peace movement’ of the 1980s which was essentially directed against the principle of possessing nuclear weapons.

    However if we want to prevail in this confrontation, further spread democracy and the rule of law eastward, and live in peace, we cannot avoid relearning a couple of simple truths. Most importantly, is the truth concerning deterrence. If it is to be credible, it must be based on three pillars: The capacity to defend yourself, the willingness to do so, and the communication of both to the opponent. At this point in time, the West must  shape up in all three categories. That presupposes, first and foremost, a frank public debate about the military threat we are facing: conventional, hybrid and nuclear. It includes the insight that we can only live in freedom today because the United States has been, and ultimately still is, risking thermonuclear war for us – remember the Cold War? And it also means that we – political parties, leaders, think tanks and NGOs, need to start a frank and rational debate about all of this.

    So do mention the war: the one that ended 70 years ago and about which Europe still has to find a narrative that lives up to our values. The one that Russia has started against Ukraine, and to which the West is still struggling to find a consistent, determined and sustainable answer. And the big one between Russia and the West, which will hopefully never happen but which we have to be ready to wage if we want to prevent it.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence Democracy EU-Russia Values

    Roland Freudenstein

    Do mention the war!


    07 May 2015

  • The ongoing saga of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme continues this month.

    Sizeable elements, notably in the US, question the very basis of the negotiations while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech to the US Congress declared Iran the great enemy of our time. But the European Union remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution.

    Many deadlines have come and gone since negotiations began in early 2014. Many critics point to the lack of a substantive agreement after so many rounds of negotiations as evidence of failure. But whether or not a deal gets brokered over the next few weeks, the very continuation of these negotiations bears testament to the ongoing success of European diplomacy.

    After the deadline last November resulted in deadlock, Catherine Ashton, former EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy stood side by side with Muhammad Javad Zarif to announce that talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the international interlocutors known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) were to be extended for a further seven months. Though announcing no concrete result, the press conference was remarkable.

    There was to be no talk of aggression, none of the militarism that marked the Ahmedinejad era of Iranian politics. Rather, we saw an affirmation the commitment of both sides to find a diplomatic resolution.

    This transformation is the result of a wide array of factors: the inauguration of the Hassan Rouhani administration; the coalescence of Western and Iranian interests in opposition to the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria; and likely, the combined economic imperatives of the international sanction regime and imploding oil prices. And of course, the prioritisation of the issue by the US.

    However, one, often overlooked, factor was central in keeping Iran at the negotiating table and ensuring that diplomacy did not make way to confrontation: the role of the European Union as a diplomatic power and mediator. The devoted commitment of the EU to seeking a diplomatic solution is paying dividends. Its diplomacy with Iran marks one small victory of European diplomacy in the post-Lisbon Treaty era.

    When talks have stalled, some have called for an escalation of sanctions against Iran. Maybe they are right. Perhaps, negotiations with the Islamic Republic are futile. And certainly such an approach would be legitimate if the Iranian government pulled out of negotiations or even if its negotiation stance was one of obfuscation or obstruction. But this does not seem to be the case. No sources are claiming a deadlock, rather diplomacy is, far from atypically, taking longer to pay dividends than originally expected. Diplomacy with Iran is remarkable precisely because it has been so unremarkable.

    In such a context, calls for escalating sanctions are, somewhat understandably, viewed by Iran as akin to asking them to negotiate under threat. Such a strategy, rather than paving the way for a solution, seems likely to only encourage the pursuit of a nuclear programme as a source of Iranian national pride.

    Therefore, the resolute determination of the European Union to pursue a diplomatic solution is of immeasurable importance. Catherine Ashton, as EU lead negotiator with Iran, has never wavered from commitment to brokering a deal with Iran. While US-Iran relations still threaten to return to a conflict between “The Axis of Evil” and “The Great Satan” the EU has treated Iran as a legitimate negotiating partner and in doing so has helped ensure that they are one. The EU has emerged as a credible negotiator that Iran is willing to put its faith in and overcome its continued distrust for the West.

    European policy has been instrumental in committing the Rouhani administration to negotiations. The current government in Tehran is now utterly dependent on reaching a negotiated settlement with the P5+1. If Rouhani cannot deliver an agreement with some relief from international sanctions, it seems unlikely that his administration can survive long.

    Of course, Iran is unlikely to be a major ally of the West in the foreseeable future. Its confessional vision of the world order clashes fundamentally with liberal democratic conceptions of the international system. Iran’s long term support for various terrorist groups in its neighbourhood and its existential conflict with Israel further prevent any true alliance emerging.

    Nonetheless, it is now increasingly apparent that a convergence of Western and Iranian interests is emerging in the Middle East, at least in the short to medium term.

    While Iran has fomented regional disorder in the past, it is clear that the Rouhani administration recognises the danger of weak and/or failed states on its border. As such, the Islamic Republic has emerged as an important component of efforts to build stable state institutions in its neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian influence in Iraq is far from universally positive but without it, it is unlikely a coalition could have been established around Haider al-Abadi who was elected prime minister last July. Similarly, the personal intervention of Iranian foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif was instrumental in cobbling together a government in the fragile politics of Afghanistan.

    Most pertinently, however, is the joint threat that the self-proclaimed ‘Islamic State’ poses. In a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, IS strives to ‘re-establish’ Muhammad’s caliphate and unite the world’s Muslim population into a united state, Dar al’Islam, in conflict with the world of war (read: infidel), Dar al’harb. To this end both the infidel West and apostate Shi’ia Iran are sworn enemies but geographical proximity amplifies the threat to the Islamic Republic. Although unwilling to follow US leadership and join international efforts against IS, Iran has joined the conflict against IS with a number of military interventions in Iraq. Some Iraqi politicians have even stated their belief that Iran is more committed to the fight than the West.

    As we enter 2015, the process of negotiation has been firmly established as the solution to international tensions arising from the Iranian pursuit of its nuclear programme and opportunities for strategic partnership are emerging. More importantly, a return to the confrontational politics of the Ahmedinejad era seems unlikely. True, it would likely be impossible to have arrived at this point without the efforts of the White House but similarly diplomatic progress is hard to conceive of with the Trojan efforts of the EU and Catherine Ashton in particular. The continuation of negotiations with Iran is evidence that the EU has an important role to play in international diplomacy.

    Eoin O’Driscoll Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Eoin O’Driscoll

    Devoted to diplomacy: the case of EU-Iran nuclear talks


    19 Mar 2015

  • After the Second World War it became clear that several European countries had failed to meet their defence tasks in the years before this war unfolded. In the Netherlands a broad consensus emerged that it was necessary to increase the level of defence spending. In the beginning of the fifties the share of defence in terms of GDP raised from around 4% to almost 5% GDP. However, in the late 1950s this share dropped to 3% GDP. In the thirty years of the Cold War the relative share of defence remained stable around the 3% GDP. After the fall of the Berlin Wall this share dropped sharply. Nowadays, Dutch defence expenditure is scarcely more than 1% GDP (1.1% GDP in 2013).

    As a consequence Dutch defence is weak, and it remains to be seen whether we can contribute significantly to the necessary fight against the Islamic State (IS) or deliver a reasonable share for a new fast NATO force protecting the eastern border of Europe. And there is no room for other challenges that might occur in the (near) future.

    However, except the USA, the Dutch situation of decreasing defence expenditures since the war is no exception. In figure 1 the share of defence expenditure as a percentage of GDP is shown for several NATO states as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, USA and UK.

    Figure 1: Defence Expenditure level (% GDP) in NATO countries

    It should be noticed that the defence expenditure share of Germany, Belgium and Spain are somewhat lower than the Netherlands. But also the level of France and UK, which have been important defence powers, have been decreased significantly. Nevertheless, both countries can still meet the NATO obligation to spend at least 2% GDP on defence. However, this is not case for the Netherlands (and Belgium, Germany and Spain also). For the USA the large shares of Korean-war (13%) and the Cold-War (6%) are already history.  Due to the war against terrorism the shares have been raised at the beginning of the 21st century.

    Nevertheless, the Obama administration changed this policy and the level declined again, though remains well above the NATO norm. Recently, Obama delicately points out the imbalance within NATO. He stressed that Europe should do more to acquire its own safety guarantee. This also in the knowledge that many countries in Europe have further reduced their defence expenditures since the euro crisis.

    In the Netherlands, recently, a policy change has been made. In 2015 the defence budget will raise with 100 million euro. However, this is hardly more than the estimated GDP increase of the current expenditure level, so that the Dutch share at most slightly increases. This is of course not sufficient at all. Therefore, I would suggest a clear budget norm for defence for the coming years not only for the Netherlands but for other EU countries as well. Also because the danger is considerable that when the current tension in the world will decrease or there will be a new budgetary crisis our territory protection will be placed at the bottom of the priority list again.

    In my view, the trend rate of the defence spending should exceed GDP growth significantly because only on this condition the Netherlands (and others) will meet the NATO standard of 2% of GDP in due term.  If we really want to give priority to international peace and security, a significant impulse towards defence is necessary and also a clear budget norm to achieve it.

    1. Data have been given since the moment that countries have joined NATO (see Military Expenditure Database van Stockholm International Peace Research Institute http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/milex_database)

    Raymond H.J.M Gradus Defence EU Member States Security

    Raymond H.J.M Gradus

    Defence spending: A clear budget norm is necessary


    14 Nov 2014

  • The abduction of Estonian Secret Service Official Eston Kohver was an extraordinary event, even by the standards of the Cold War. It was yet another episode in the series of moves which Russia has been making recently to put pressure on NATO. Russian nuclear bombers have made incursions into US and Canadian air defence identification zones, Russia has seized the Lithuanian flagship vessel in international waters and Russian aircrafts have been violating NATO airspace with an increased frequency.

    This is why Kohver is neither an Estonian-Russian problem, nor an isolated incident in a security operation gone off track. It is part of Russia’s attempt to undermine the system of Euro-Atlantic security.

    Russia is pushing NATO to its extremes, testing its unity. In a run-up to the latest NATO Summit, a number of NATO members worried that Moscow would view NATO’s resolve to strengthen security and defence capabilities on its Eastern frontiers as a provocation. The Russians now are making it clear that they do. If the Kremlin has its way, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will enjoy NATO’s collective defence guarantees only formally, without having the needed military capabilities. If there are attempts to change this, there will be costs. The abduction of Kohver, for instance.

    By attacking NATO on its own territory, Russia is also trying to put a final bullet into NATO’s enlargement agenda. Attacks on NATO’s security will divert attention to the challenges within the current borders. As NATO is regrouping to defend its existing members, any talk about extending security guarantees to Georgia, with 20% of its territory under Russian occupation, or to Ukraine, with an open economic, political and military confrontation with Moscow, becomes obsolete.

    Vladimir Putin aspires for a resurrected Empire as his legacy. Getting back Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, is not an option. Even Putin must understand that. By launching an offensive on NATO members, however, Moscow is pushing the line of defence further away from Ukraine, away from Georgia. Moscow empowers those who oppose enlargement and assert that accepting the Baltic countries to NATO was a mistake. It is part of Russia’s well-orchestrated plan to impose on the West a new ‘Munich’ agreement. This would imply abandoning any plans to bring democracy to Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, thus forcing them to become the vassals of Moscow, once again.

    Therefore, Kohver is a prisoner of war, a war which Putin has declared on the West. The fact that we have not found a name for this war yet, does not make his abduction in a foggy Baltic forest any less sinister. 

    Salome Samadashvili Baltic Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security

    Salome Samadashvili

    Eston Kohver: a prisoner of war?


    29 Sep 2014

  • On the 1st of August 1975, the then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave was one of the signatories of the Helsinki Final act governing relations between European states. He signed along the United States, all other European countries (except Albania), and the USSR, which at the time encompassed both Russia and Ukraine.

    Article one of the Helsinki Final Act said that the signatory states would “respect each other’s sovereign equality, juridical equality and territorial integrity” and that they would refrain from the “use of force or the threat of the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

    As a small militarily neutral European state, Ireland has a greater interest, even than has a state which enjoys the comfort of a military alliance, in ensuring that these clear interstate principles are respected.

    The Russian annexation of Crimea by force and its present increasingly overt invasion of Eastern Ukraine is obviously a flagrant breach of the Helsinki Final Act. It is the first of its kind since the end of the Second World War, unless one includes the NATO action against former Yugoslavia over the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, which was then part of sovereign former Yugoslav territory. I argued at the time that this was a dangerous precedent.

    As Taoiseach, I happened to have been invited to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the very day the Assembly was voting to admit the Russian Federation to membership of the Council. I spoke in favour of Russian accession. Russia became a member on 28 February 1996. The Council of Europe is the source of a dense and comprehensive network of treaties on many topics, including human rights. The Council of Europe, and its Treaties, only have meaning to the extent that its members are willing to abide by international law.

    The European Union itself also rests on the foundation of respect for international law. The EU only EXISTS because there is an assumption that international Treaties will be respected in ALL circumstances. The EU has no force to govern its own members beyond the force of international law in the form of EU Treaties. The European Court of Justice interprets these Treaties and its rulings are accepted by all EU states.

    Dividing the EU has been a long standing Russian goal, and President Putin’s aggressive tactics appear to be succeeding in the goal of dividing the EU, in a way that previous Russian efforts have failed. At a meeting I attended last June, the new EU Foreign Representative, Federica Mogherini,  admitted that, as then Italian Foreign Minister, she had been “advocating for Putin” within the EU. Her promotion will now encourage Putin, and is more eloquent than any verbal warning he may have been given about the EU ending its “partnership “with Russia, whatever that means.

    Within the EU, countries like Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy  are relatively accommodative towards what Russia is doing, while others, like Lithuania, Poland, Estonia and Latvia are alarmed and looking for resolute action. The bigger EU states are, painfully and unsuccessfully, trying to balance commercial interests against professed principles. The Russian tactics are very similar to those adopted by Hitler in his dealings with the Czechs in 1938, and the present tactics of the EU are not dissimilar to those adopted by the French and British Governments of the day.

    As 28 nations, the EU will never be able to move with the dexterity of an autocracy like Russia, but if it is not to have its policies dictated in the Kremlin, as a result Russian pressure on energy supplies, it needs to make a radical change in its own energy policies. It needs to build a proper energy union in Europe, independent of Russia, with complete inter connection of its energy distribution grids. That will require a lot of (job creating) investment, and the diversion of funds from current consumption. But a long term decision like this would create a new momentum with which Russia could not ignore.

    The EU also needs to reflect on the contradictory messages it is sending out about nuclear disarmament.

    Libya, which had got rid of its nuclear weapons programme, was attacked by EU countries, who were supporting the ouster of the Gaddafi regime. In an agreement to encourage it to give up the nuclear weapons on its territory, Ukraine’s sovereign integrity was guaranteed, in the Budapest memorandum, by a number of countries, including Russia, the UK, and France. Against the background of what happened in Libya, more recent developments in Eastern Ukraine reduce the incentives for nuclear disarmament in a very dangerous way.

    Given the vast economic superiority that EU countries enjoy over Russia, it is surprising that they have so little influence on it. If EU countries refused to buy Russian gas, Putin would have to stop and think. But the effect of such a decision would hurt some EU countries much more than others, and that would require the EU to set up a budget big enough to compensate the countries that would suffer the most. The biggest resistance to this would come from countries, like the UK, that do not want a large EU budget. Likewise German business interests who are heavily invested in Russia.

    It is really difficult to see who can now stop Putin, except perhaps an awakened Russian public opinion that will become sickened by the casualties Russian soldiers will suffer in a needless war against another Slav country.

    John Bruton Defence EU-Russia Security Ukraine

    John Bruton

    Events in Ukraine threaten both the international rule of law and nuclear non-proliferation

    Blog - Ukraine

    05 Sep 2014

  • I have just finished reading ‘Sleepwalkers – How Europe went to war in 1914’ by Christopher Clark, Professor of Modern History in Cambridge. He describes the statesmen who stumbled into War in 1914 as “sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the horror they were about to bring to the world”.

    A web of interlocking commitments, designed to give individual countries security and peace behind their own borders, ended up tumbling the whole continent into War.

    Austro-Hungary had a defensive pact with Germany. Russia set itself up as the protector of Serbia. France gave Russia a blank cheque in the Balkans because it needed Russian assurances against Germany. Britain had a rather more vague understanding with France. It feared any Russian rapprochement with Germany because Russia could threaten British interests in India.

    So, when Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajevo by assassins that had come from Serbia, the possibility that all these dominoes might fall in the direction of war opened up. But it was only a possibility.

    Serbia could have taken resolute action to root out the conspiracy behind the assassins before Austria issued any ultimatum. Austria could have issued a more temperate ultimatum. Serbia could have given a less evasive response. Germany could have restrained Austria.

    Russia could have held back from full scale mobilization in support of Serbia, and France could have made it clear that it did not wish to get involved in supporting a Russian attack on Austria so long as Germany stayed out too. Britain could have said it would remain neutral in a German war with France, so long as Germany respected Belgian neutrality.

    The interlocking commitments between countries that led to war were not, according to Christopher Clark, “long term features of the European system, but the consequence of numerous short term adjustments” made in the immediately preceding years.

    The War was not inevitable, but suited some leaders to pretend to themselves afterwards that it was, so as to avoid facing the consequences of some their own omissions, ambiguities and evasions.

    Some of the issues involved are still current.

    How does one pursue a criminal conspiracy launched from another jurisdiction? If the European Arrest Warrant was in place could Austria have obtained the extradition of some of the conspirators from Belgrade without threatening war?

    Christopher Clark says Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia was milder than the one NATO issued to Serbia in 1999!

    As we see a drift towards a confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine, the lesson I draw from this book is that leaders must not just think of the next move, but of the likely counter move, the move after that and so on, bearing in mind that nothing is inevitable until it has actually happened, and that they usually have more choices than they are willing to acknowledge.

    John Bruton Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine

    John Bruton

    As tension mounts over Ukraine: Some lessons from 1914

    Blog - Ukraine

    11 Aug 2014

  • When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and a number of countries became independent on its former territory the number of states armed with nuclear weapons increased by three: Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine inherited the Soviet nuclear weapons on their territory. By far the largest arsenal remained in newly independent Ukraine, including 2500 tactical nuclear weapons plus 130 SS-19 and 46 modern SS-24 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) with about 1900 strategic warheads. At that time this was the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. International diplomatic efforts led to the signing of the Lisbon Protocol to the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 1992. Under this agreement, Ukraine (as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan) would join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapons state and would return the nuclear weapons on its territory to Russia, which would become the successor of the Soviet Union as a nuclear weapons state.

    The practical implementation, however, took time and met with resistance: the last weapons were only returned in 1996. In the meantime, a debate had begun whether the strategic nuclear weapons (ICBMs and warheads) should be retained by Ukraine. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum, signed by Russia, the United States and the UK was a key piece to overcome these problems in the transition of Ukraine to non-nuclear status by giving security guarantees (both against territorial and economic threats) to Ukraine as well as assistance for the return of the warheads to Russia and the elimination of the missile systems in Ukraine. Even though the Budapest Memorandum falls short of explicitly giving security guarantees that would trigger automatic military response, the document contains strong political assurances that are legally binding for the signatories.

    Leaving aside the question whether Ukraine would have been able to maintain the nuclear weapons systems it inherited from the Soviet Union, one might ask (and people in Ukraine actually do this) if the current crisis would have evolved in the same ways if Ukraine were still a nuclear power. While this question is, of course, theoretical it has significant impact in the reasoning of those countries that are either thinking to develop a nuclear arsenal or those who think of giving up their nuclear weapons. What transpires from the current crisis is that you should not give up your nuclear weapons for declarations of political will or assurances unless your conventional capabilities are sufficient for self-defence or you are member of a military alliance with strong security guarantees and automated mechanisms to invoke defence of your territory by the alliance in case of attack. If you are thinking to ‘go nuclear’, the current events might boost your intentions even further. For the goal of international non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, for the NPT and naturally for the ongoing negotiations with Iran, these conclusions are of course disastrous. At the same time, the nervous responses from the Baltic countries are a reminder that the US concept of extended deterrence fundamentally relies on the assurance of its allies that the US will fulfil its security obligations. That assuring allies can be more difficult than deterring adversaries is a lesson already learned at different stages during the Cold War.

    What are the conclusions from this for Europeans and transatlantic partners? The damage to nuclear non-proliferation efforts has already been done but the reactions of the West in the ongoing crisis will determine whether this damage can be contained or more ‘fallout’ is produced. For the West, this basically means that any changes to Ukrainian territorial integrity by force, pressure and action not in accordance with international law must be and have to remain unacceptable. There are many possible actions that fall short of military intervention that can and should be explored. But beyond the actual crisis in Ukraine there are things to be learned and considered. Any possible window of opportunity for further nuclear (reduction) treaties between the US and Russia is definitely closed for some time to come. But there is no need to be afraid of a new nuclear build-up at this moment. The US should remain focused on coming up with a nuclear force structure that is sufficient and also affordable in the mid to long-term. Current forecasts predict the US will spend a total of $1 trillion on the nuclear triad (aircraft based systems, land and submarine based missile systems) over the next 30 years. These costs are likely to be unsustainable. Therefore a discussion is needed on the future of the US deterrent including both strategic and budgetary implications. While this will primarily be a discussion going on within the US, the voice and opinions of those countries ‘under the US nuclear umbrella’ should be heard as well. For Europe, this means answering some rather uncomfortable questions: How do we deal with the threat perceived by NATO members on the Eastern periphery of the alliance? What is the political and military role of US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe? What kind of “assurance” do European allies of the US require and expect? How would Europe with its partners respond to a scenario in which the ban of intermediate range missile systems under the INF treaty fell? There have been ongoing allegations that Russia is either violating or at least trying to circumvent the INF treaty. On the other hand, Russia could simply terminate the treaty, arguing that a similar move had been made by the US in terminating the ABM (Anti Ballistic Missile) Treaty in 2002.

    While one could say that these are indeed bleak perspectives, one should not forget that there are still areas for nuclear cooperation that should not be spoiled. The risk arising from nuclear terrorism is real not only for the West but also for Russia and other countries. Even though President Putin will not attend the Nuclear Security Summit that will take place next week in The Hague there can be little interest on the Russian side not to continue international cooperation. The same should be true for us.

    [Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely those of the author and do not represent those of any organisation.]

    Marc-Michael Blum Defence Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Ukraine

    Marc-Michael Blum

    Russia, Ukraine and the question of giving up nuclear weapons

    Blog - Ukraine

    18 Mar 2014

  • At the Election Congress of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Dublin, EPP affiliated leaders from Eastern Partnership countries Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan discussed the situation in Ukraine and its wider implication for Europe’s Eastern Neighbourhood during a panel organised by the Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP).

    In his opening remarks, CES President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda kicked off the panel by paying tribute to Ukrainian citizens for making huge sacrifices for democracy. Alexander Stubb, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade of Finland, emphasised that “money is the best pacifier”, as demonstrated by the reaction of the markets in Russia in the recent days. The European Union needs to act firmly to secure Ukraine’s European future and, in this context, the Association Agreement and an EU visa policy towards Ukraine remain essential.

    Leonid Gozman, President of the Union of Right Forces in Russia, pleaded for the strengthening of democratic forces in Russia, by saying: “Let me make it clear that thousands of Russians do believe that Russia committed an act of aggression in Ukraine. Crimea is the worst action taken by my country since the invasion of Czechoslovakia.”

    Speakers moved on to analyse ways of dealing with Russia in light of the lessons learned from the Ukrainian crisis. Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament, emphasised that a comprehensive solution for Ukraine requires a more coordinated European policy and a united Western front towards Russia. According to the International Republican Institute Eurasia Regional Director, Stephen Nix, channels of communication with Russia should be kept open, which does not necessarily exclude sanctions against Russia, as US policy shows.

    The panel concluded with a discussion on the lessons learned and consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the wider EU Eastern Neighbourhood. CES Visiting Fellow and former Head of Georgia’s Mission to the EU Ambassador Salome Samadashvili highlighted the fact that the Cold War ended without a settlement and that Russia is currently taking advantage of the lack of clear terms of engagement in the region. Yusif Bagirzade, Chairman of the National Independence Party of Azerbaijan, declared: “The Ukrainian crisis should serve as an incentive for the EU to offer real opportunities to Moldova and Georgia before similar crises erupt there.”

    Speakers agreed that in the long run, the EU will have to strengthen its Eastern Partnership Initiative and address civil society (which desires modernisation and stronger ties to the EU) more than governments (which resist that).

    Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Eastern Partnership leaders discuss crisis in Ukraine during debate at EPP Congress in Dublin

    Other News

    07 Mar 2014

  • Recent months have seen rather little enthusiasm from security experts regarding the upcoming Defence Summit on 19 December. It seems as if despite the pressing issue of increasing security challenges around the EU, no vital decisions are expected to be made when EU leaders will meet this week.

    And this although at the beginning experts and politicians were thrilled at the prospect of having a summit that mainly focuses on defence issues with the aim to push member states out of their national defence policy closets. The latest report by the European External Action Service (EEAS) on CSDP in October 2013 outlines ambitious plans and ideas to improve the European defence system that have been on the table for years. The question is, will states move beyond official statements and promises?

    Certainly, the pre-Christmas summit lays the ground for the European Council to press ahead with reforms in the areas of operational effectiveness, defence capabilities and the strengthening of Europe’s defence industry. Issues to be dealt with are the reinforcement of the capabilities of the European Defence Agency (EDA), avoiding duplications between NATO and the EU and concrete steps to prevent uncoordinated national budget cuts by member states. Some Brussels insiders, however, fear that discussions on the NSA surveillance affair and calls from southern European countries to tackle illegal immigration at Europe’s external borders could attract most of the attention at the summit.

    Notwithstanding these concerns, some aspects should definitely be discussed properly at this summit:

    First, indeed, since the ratification of the Code of Conduct of Pooling & Sharing initiatives in by EU Defence Ministers just a year ago, some member states have already made a remarkable effort to harmonise their military capabilities. Take for instance the Netherlands and Belgium, who are conducting coordinated naval training and logistics. Nevertheless, the fact that any naval missions abroad still remain in the hands of each member state has been rightly criticised by senior military officials. We definitely need more investigation in this matter.
    Pooling & Sharing initiatives have partly been implemented, as for instance in areas of satellite communication, and this testifies a positive trend in this regard.
    But again, fragmented governmental satellite communication systems co-exist. The same applies to EU-wide cooperation in research and technology on cyber defence.

    Second, recent joint initiatives on air-to-air refuelling (AAR) by Italy, France and Sweden in September are indeed crucial steps to improve Europe’s military capacities. Nevertheless, cooperation on AAR should be further developed to eventually establish a European multinational multirole tankers fleet.

    Third, again the EU should grab the opportunity at this gathering to advertise the increasing role of the European Defence Agency (EDA) in matters of security and defence policy, established to better coordinate member states’ activities in technology, research and procurement. In particular, EDA’s particular capacities and skills to encourage more consultation by EU nations with the agency are of importance.

    Fourth, states complaining of high defence expenditures should use the summit to advocate the introduction of a European Defence Review, to get an idea of what Europe’s national military capabilities are. In addition, Europe requires a serious debate on responsibility and effectiveness when it comes to the deployment of EU battle groups.

    Fifth, the provision of a fair and effective European defence market, offering also SMEs the opportunity to have a share of the production, should be high on the agenda.
    It is understandable that in times of financial crisis member states are obliged to reduce their defence spending.

    While it is always debatable whether to engage in any military operation with our partners, capacities, skills and levels of cooperation need to be developed to the extent that we are able to do so if necessary. Some EU states need a wake-up call at this defence summit to realise that more cooperation on the EU level actually means investing less and gaining more.

    Let’s face it, our continent cannot afford to lag behind in defence capabilities, given an increase in unpredictable security issues, in particular at Europe’s southern borders, accompanied by a gradual strategic shift of US interest to the Asia Pacific region.

    Benjamin Tedla Hecker Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security

    Benjamin Tedla Hecker

    Political will required to achieve concrete results during today’s Defence Summit


    18 Dec 2013

  • A decade has passed since the colour revolutions ushered in a new wave of democratisation into some countries of the former USSR.

    Later this week the capital of another former Soviet republic, Lithuania, an inspirational model for the other Newly Independent States emerging from the ruins of the “evil empire,” will host what was hoped to be a historical summit of the Eastern Partnership Initiative. The Initiative encompasses six former Soviet republics with the overarching goal of strengthening the political and economic ties between them and the EU. An ambitious action-plan, or “Roadmap to Vilnius,” envisioned cementing the European future of the most advanced eastern partners at this milestone event.

    Sadly the outcome of Vilnius summit will be falling short of these high expectations. Following the decision of Armenia to abandon the path towards the European integration and consider joining the Russian led Eurasian Customs Union, another partner, Ukraine has also refused to sign the association and free trade agreements in Vilnius, leading to mass public protests and deepened political confrontation in the country, the outcome of which is yet to be seen.

    Georgia and Moldova are now set to be the “stars” of the Vilnius summit, initialing association and free trade agreements with the EU. This will be an important step forward for both countries. However, the game is far from over.

    The declining economic performance of Georgia under its new government, as well as the concerns about selective justice it applies against political opponents, rampant corruption and the volatile domestic political scene in Moldova, alongside the ongoing security challenges posed by unresolved conflicts, all create a fertile ground for impeding the progress of the two champions of the Eastern Partnership in the nearest future.

    Four years since the inception of the Eastern Partnership initiative it is both timely as well as necessary to ask, why has this EU policy managed to deliver more in some partner countries than in the others?

    Looking at the political, economic and security factors, it is clear that the level of democratic development, the degree of economic dependency on Russia and the nature of the security concerns facing individual partners, all have played their pivotal role in determining respective successes and failures achieved by the Eastern Partnership Initiative vis-a-vis them.

    As witnessed most recently in my own country, Georgia, free and fair elections which resulted in the first democratic transfer of power, were largely made possible due to the commitment of the governing elites to the European future of the country. The elections, so far, have not altered the fiercely pro-Western foreign policy orientation molded by the government led by former president Mikhail Saakashvili. As long as democracy and the commitment of the Georgian voters to the European choice survive, it seems that the country will remain safely on the EU path.

    A messy, but still democratic process in Moldova, for reasons similar to the ones in Georgia, has also managed to take the country forward towards Europe.

    The entrenched political interests of the governing elites in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, however, despite the respective differences in the quality of the democratic development of these countries, have been the decisive factor for failure of the Eastern Partnership Initiative to achieve the desired progress there.

    As the examples of Armenia and Ukraine also clearly show, strong economic ties with Russia pose a serious threat to the European choice of both the governing elites and the voters amongst the Eastern partners, as do the concerns with respect to the potential security threats and dependency on Russian military assistance.

    In this light, what does the future of the Eastern Partnership look like following Vilnius?

    The Russian pressure on these countries is likely to increase – as of spring of next year, Russia’s current vanity project, the Sochi Olympics – will be a thing of the past. It is therefore probable that the second, strategically even more important and ambitious project – the Eurasian Union – will be given full attention by the Russian leadership. While the viability of this project still remains uncertain, its potential for undermining the EU’s interests in the region, in light of the recent developments, can no longer be ignored. In the months and years to come, Russian policy towards the countries in its shared neighborhood with the EU will be multifaceted.

    Russia will try to agree on deals behind the closed doors with the leadership of those countries where lack of democracy makes it possible to ignore the voters. In the countries where a still nascent but functioning democratic process makes it difficult to discount public opinion, such as Georgia for example, Russia will continue wielding economic and soft power tools to thwart support of voters away from the European future. Russia will also likely deepen security concerns where it can by supporting instability.

    What will be the response of the European Union to this increasingly assertive role of Russia? Will it stand up for its strategic interests in the region or will it retreat? Clearly, if the EU is serious about its commitment to the region, after Vilnius it will need to devote substantial intellectual and financial resources to rethinking the policies directed at supporting democracy, economic development and security of its Eastern neighbors.

    Five years ago, the disastrous war between my country and Russia served as an impetus for some serious policy thinking in Brussels and other European capitals on the way to stabilise the EU’s eastern neighborhood. This has resulted in the creation of the Eastern Partnership initiative, which despite its limitations, was an important step forward in securing the democratic and European future of our countries.

    Let the recent setbacks serve in a similar role, as catalysts for renewing the commitment of the EU to its eastern neighbors.

    The strategic interests of the European Union in creating a stable and prosperous neighborhood around its borders, access to the human and natural resources of the Eastern partners and the benefits from the common economic space with them, all are self-evident.

    However, strategic interests aside, the people who braved to confront the authorities in the streets of Tbilisi and Kiev some 10 years ago demanding their freedom, who, despite all the disappointments of the decade following the colour revolutions, have not lost their faith in democracy and are willing to go back to the Maidan to defend their European choice, count on the European Union.

    Europe must not disappoint us.

    [Originally published on euobserver.com: http://ces.tc/1iZpsPD]

    Salome Samadashvili Defence Democracy EU-Russia Foreign Policy

    Salome Samadashvili

    What next after the EU’s Vilnius summit?


    29 Nov 2013


    The Joint Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme that was agreed on in Geneva on November 25th, also often just referred to as “the deal”, has produced strong opinions either in favour or against. Even though at a CES publication launch earlier this year I said I feel rather pessimistic regarding a solution of the issues associated with the Iranian nuclear programme I will side with those feeling positive about the deal. Why that? Because it was the best possible deal at this moment and it is preferable to having no deal at all.

    Yes, the sanctions imposed on Iran have hit the countries economy hard and they probably constitute the major factor for Iran to get back to productive negotiations but anybody who might think that these sanctions would bring Iran to the point to fully give up its nuclear programme (and the potential to fuel processing and enrichment specifically) made unrealistic assumptions in the first place. Apart from the fact that external pressure often produces even stronger resistance to give in, the complicated machinery that makes up Iran’s political decision-making process and power distribution would not allow for anything going beyond to what was agreed in Geneva at this point.

    So while I agree that ending enrichment activities and the dismantling of facilities would have been preferable it was clear from the beginning that this could only come at the end of a long process and not at the beginning of a 6-month interim agreement. So what do we get? If the agreement is followed (and I will say something about cheating in a moment) Iran will suspend 20% enrichment of Uranium and will either turn existing stockpiles into oxide form, which is not usable for weapons, or reduce the enrichment grade by blending. In addition no more centrifuges can be added and recently installed ones cannot be commissioned. Also work on the Arak reactor that is a possible source for weapons-grade Plutonium is suspended. This is combined with rather strong verification provisions that allow IAEA inspector unprecedented access to facilities.

    All of this would ensure that that the time Iran needs for a burst programme to produce enough highly enriched Uranium (or Plutonium) for a nuclear weapon is significantly lengthened instead of shortened as it would have been the case without a deal and with new centrifuges installed. This gives time for further negotiations aiming at a more long term if not final resolution of the dispute on the Iranian nuclear programme and this is what this agreement is all about: Time. But what if the Iranians cheat? If there are strong indications that the agreement is not followed it should be declared void and sanctions should be tightened.

    Admittedly it might be hard to do that at some point and its time for the 3+3 to define their red lines now. However if you assume that Iran will for sure cheat there is no need for any further attempts to resolve the problem by diplomatic means. The only option then, if you were not willing to accept an Iranian bomb, would be military action with all possible consequences. This means giving up political options and in my opinion is highly irresponsible. If the decision for Iran’s leadership is either to go for a nuclear weapon to be immune to attempts of external regime change or to suspend nuclear ambitions in order to avoid possible internal change (as happened to so many other countries during the Arab spring) my bet is currently on the latter and the world should make the best of this opportunity. However, lets not forget that things in the Middle East are never easy and always complicated.

    This conflict is embedded in numerous others: The clash between Sunni and Shia Islam, the tensions between Arab countries and non-Arab Iran, the conflict of Israel and its Muslim neighbours, increased instability in the region after the Arab spring revolutions, just no name a few. What we see are not only negotiations between the 3+3 and Iran but we also have a number of invisible stakeholders sitting at the table with their concerns and wishes. Will this agreement lead to better sleep for people in Israel or for the leaders of the Gulf countries? Not quite, but on the other hand it should not lead to new nightmares either. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely those of the author and do not represent those of any organisation.


    “Peace for our time” is reportedly what Chamberlain said when he stepped off the plane from Munich in September 1938 where he had negotiated a fateful deal: He had given in to most of Hitler’s demands regarding Czechoslovakia, got little in return and so ended up bringing World War II a good deal closer, as we know today. In many of the critical comments these last days, not only in the Israeli ones, Geneva has been labelled the new Munich. Now, historical parallels should always be handled with care. But I do believe that those who now pride themselves of having averted war, may have actually brought it closer in the end. So let’s look at the drawbacks, the alternatives, and the consequences of Geneva.

    What’s bad about the interim agreement? In December 2006, the UN Security Council demanded an immediate end to all uranium and plutonium enrichment in Iran. Over the past years, an elaborate sanctions regime has been built up, which is never easy and took a lot of time and effort. As we see, it has started to bite. But in Geneva last weekend, the West, as part of the 3+3 powers, has not only vowed to impose no new sanctions (which were well on their way), but actually to ease the ones in place. Let’s spell it out: The UN demand of 2006 has now been officially thrown out the window. Western insistence that Geneva is not equivalent to a recognition of Iran’s “right to enrichment” changes little here. Now that the Iranian negotiators have received their heroes’ welcome by regime-sponsored crowds in Tehran and Ayatollah Khamenei has made clear that Iran’s “right to enrichment” was recognised, it is hard to see how the regime can, in future, agree to any deal that would take it away

    On sanctions, however, the international and domestic pressure in the West to ease them further will increase. And it should be obvious that even if and when Iran is caught red-handed at cheating, calls for the reintroduction of sanctions will be labelled as “dangerous provocations” that would only antagonize the mullahs. Geneva is a one-sided agreement that leaves Iran’s efforts to achieve nuclear breakout capacity basically intact. It has strengthened the regime domestically, so it can continue to oppress democrats, and internationally, so it can continue to export terror and commit crimes against humanity, such as in Syria. It’s a bad deal.

    What would have been the alternative? According to the advocates of Geneva: War. Well, military action to disable Iran’s nuclear weapons programme has always been an option that even Barack Obama never took off the table. And that’s where it should remain. But quite obviously, the main and immediate alternative to both war and a flawed agreement would have been to move to the next round of sanctions while trying to make the regime understand that it has to stop enrichment immediately, and close down (not temporarily limit) all preparations for producing plutonium in Arak. With only current sanctions in place, that may have been difficult to achieve even with the Rohani regime. But it was worth trying tougher sanctions to drive up the cost of enrichment.

    Where do we go from here? Now that the interim agreement has been signed, it will be of utmost importance to achieve in the upcoming negotiations what could not be achieved so far: The dismantling of the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons. Pressure, including tougher sanctions and military threats, must be upheld, and the temptation to get carried away by our diplomatic “success” must be resisted. As France demonstrated a few weeks ago, it is possible to keep the Obama administration from “kicking the can down the road” on the Iranian nuclear programme.

    Because one thing should be clear: If Iran retains any capacity to break out and race to the possession of nuclear weapons within a matter of months, a possible consequence is still an Israeli military strike – because Israelis will never accept a nuclear armed Iran, and they have good reasons for that. But the certain consequence would be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Which would surely bring the world closer to a devastating war than a further escalation between the West and Iran due to increased pressure. To prevent such an arms race, not to succeed in diplomacy at any price, must be the main concern of Western leaders in the negotiations ahead.

    Marc-Michael Blum Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Marc-Michael Blum

    Roland Freudenstein

    Iranian Nuclear Program: The Geneva Deal Pros and Cons


    26 Nov 2013

  • Henna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Leadership Security Transatlantic

    Henna Hopia

    Breaking down the Walls: Improving EU-NATO Relations


    05 Jul 2013

  • One week after the Boston bombings, with the perpetrators dead or arrested, we may not know the whole story yet. But we know that America is, once more, confronted by a case of ‘home-grown’ terrorism, i.e. an attack by people that, no matter where they originally came from, radicalised themselves and became jihadists while being residents of a Western country. Most previous comparable attacks were unsuccessful – this one was not. And in the ensuing debate about what can be done to prevent such attacks, we are experiencing a sense of déjà vu: just like in Europe after comparable attacks, foiled or successful, the knee-jerk reaction by the Left is to search the perpetrators’ curriculae for signs of disenfranchisement, of dashed hope and discrimination suffered at the hands of the host country’s majority. And the conclusion is invariably that if we could only become more tolerant, more open societies, such sad cases would not happen. Which is why the best preventive anti-terror strategy is anti-discrimination legislation, promoting a multi-cultural society and legalising all forms of immigration.

    Conservatives in the US, unsurprisingly, took a different view. Some Republicans again questioned the President’s project of a new immigration bill, demanding much tighter restrictions on immigration in the future. Others took this opportunity to criticise gun control: during the manhunt, when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still eluding police, gun lobbyists tweeted whether Boston area Democrats wouldn’t wish they had a semiautomatic rifle now. But the argument most often given by US conservatives is very simply that all other immigrant groups so far have integrated themselves – often in a long and sometimes painful process – without resorting to the kind of indiscriminate violence at play in Boston. So one might well discuss more efficient ways to integrate immigrants, and better early warning methods for law enforcement to detect radicalisation, as well as improved incentives for de-radicalisation. Maybe European experience can be of some help here. But on the central issue of multiculturalism, there is no reason to make an exception to the rule that no democracy can allow parallel societies – parts of immigrant populations where the basic values of our constitutions are systematically disregarded. Europe and America are today closer than ever before in having to meet this challenge. We should do this together – that’s one of the lessons of the Boston bombing.

    Roland Freudenstein Defence EU-US Extremism Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Roland Freudenstein

    After Boston – Terrorism, Immigration and Integration


    24 Apr 2013

  • On the 22nd of April 2013, the Centre for European Studies (CES) kicked off a new series of events entitled ‘Food for Thought’; the first event in the series, entitled ‘Leading from Behind: U.S. Foreign & Defence Policy Ten Years after Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power’ welcomed Kenneth Weinstein, CEO and President of Hudson Institute in order to discuss Obama’s foreign policy and its implications for the transatlantic relationship.

    In his introductory remarks, CES Director Tomi Huhtanen emphasised the importance the Centre for European Studies, as the official think tank of the European People’s Party attaches to transatlantic relations. As part of the transatlantic research agenda, the Centre for European Studies regularly publishes studies and organises events with experts and senior officials from both sides of the Atlantic; one of the most important events of this kind is the Transatlantic Think Tank Conference, a conference which takes place every year in Brussels and Washington.

    Dr Weinstein started his intervention by recalling that ten years ago, the launch of a second U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein exposed intra-NATO differences of temperament and philosophy in sharp relief. This stark divergence of perspective on both sides of the Atlantic then led political scientist Robert Kagan, in a famous essay and subsequent book titled ‘Of Paradise and Power’, to declare that Europe and the U.S. had come to inhabit two separate planets entirely. According to Kagan, the Americans were ‘from Mars’, emphasising force projection in international affairs, while Europeans were ‘from Venus’, favouring ‘laws, rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation.’

    Ten years later and taking into consideration the different imprint left by President Obama on US foreign and defence policies, the metaphor seems to have inversed and the planets seem to have realigned, according to Dr Weinstein. In support of his argument, he cited the examples of Libya, Syria or Mali, where the Europeans had taken the (military) lead. In the meantime, looking at troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan or diplomatic engagement with Iran, Americans seem to have turned inward ‘with an almost Venusian vengeance.’ In an even more worrying development, Dr Weinstein pointed out that US’s unilateral acts vis-à-vis its European partners were frustrating the latter, leading to a decline of influence of the West as a whole in global affairs.

    After this initial setting of the scene, the participants engaged in a lively comments and questions session, whose main conclusions were the following: the US and the EU need to continue to work together during these challenging times for the transatlantic Alliance, especially with the rise of new world powers such as China and others. While neither the Mars nor the Venus approaches are sufficient on their own, the two powers need to combine them in a manner that leads to improved outcomes, particularly when it comes to intervention, reconstruction and withdrawal strategies. In the case of Syria, for example, the ‘leading from behind’ doctrine should materialise into concrete actions that provide a model and set an example for future transatlantic burden sharing.

    The fact that the Europeans are recently sometimes taking the leadership in their own neighbourhood is not per se a bad thing, and it can signal that they are ready to be a real partner in the transatlantic framework – although this has, in the past couple of years, pertained to France and Britain only, not to the entire European Union. However, American leaders need to communicate their changes of strategy better, so that the Europeans do not feel alienated. Last, but not least, Dr Weinstein concluded that both American political parties should communicate strategic doctrine principles better and more often to the American public, so that they build public support for US foreign policy.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    President of Hudson Institute: ‘The US and the EU need to find common ways to engage globally’

    Other News

    23 Apr 2013

  • The Centre for European Studies is proud to participate as a Strategic Partner at GLOBSEC 2013 (Bratislava Global Security Forum), a high level conference that will take place during April 18-20, 2013.

    Founded eight years ago, the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum has become a unique foreign policy and security platform – giving a Central European twist to the strategic debate on transatlantic foreign policy, economy and security. With the participation of over 500 key stakeholders from more than 40 countries, GLOBSEC has acquired a stable position among the elite club of major conferences in Europe and North America and is often compared with prestigious forums held in Brussels or Munich.

    Organised by the Slovak Atlantic Commission in cooperation with a wealth of institutional and international partners, GLOBSEC 2013 will welcome, among others: H. E. Radoslaw Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland; H. E. Karel Schwarzenberg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; H. E. Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood; Yves Leterme, Deputy Secretary General, OECD, Paris; Hon. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States, Washington, D.C.

    This year, the Forum focuses on issues central to transatlantic and regional cooperation, including European economic prospects and the future of global economic governance. Panellists will also engage in debates over the character of Central European defence cooperation and Central Europe’s energy concerns. Other burning issues to be tackled at GLOBSEC 2013 include NATO’s post-ISAF role, new threats to cyber security, China’s role in the global financial crisis and challenges on Europe’s South-East doorstep.

    As part of a packed programme, CES Deputy Director and Head of Research Roland Freudenstein will appear as a speaker in a panel entitled ‘Addressing Iran: Prevention or Treatment?’; he will be joined by Richard Norton-Taylor, Security editor with The Guardian, Amb. Kurt Volker, Executive Director, of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, Ayman Khalil, Director of the Arab Institute for Security Studies in Amman and Emily Landau, Director of Arms Control and Regional Security Program with the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv. CES Research Associate Katarina Králiková will moderate a panel on Arab transitions as part of the Young Leaders Forum side programme. Visiting Fellow Henna Hopia is also attending the Forum as commentator during one of the dinner sessions, entitled ‘UK in the EU: with Europe but not of Europe?’

    For more details concerning GLOBSEC 2013, past editions and live streaming of this year’s public sessions, please visit: http://www.globsec.org/globsec2013/

    Defence Eastern Europe Foreign Policy Globalisation Security

    CES joins GLOBSEC 2013 in Bratislava as Strategic Partner

    Other News

    16 Apr 2013

  • Marc-Michael Blum Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security

    Marc-Michael Blum

    Rethinking the bomb: Europe and nuclear weapons in the XXI century


    10 Apr 2013

  • It’s one of those strange coincidences that underscore a turn in world affairs that has been underway for some time: One day after President Obama announces deep cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, North Korea carries out its third underground nuclear test, against the helpless criticism of most of the international community. Of course, even after the announced cuts, America’s number of warheads should be enough to deter any rational actor, especially one with only a handful of viable nuclear devices. A decrease in warhead numbers does not have the same unilateral effect it had during the Cold War. And yet: While the leading Western power is dramatically cutting both conventional and nuclear forces, some of its worst enemies are doing everything they can to acquire nuclear weapons (Iran) or to expand their nuclear arsenal (North Korea).

    Two remarks: First, the dynamics at play here are ominous indeed. The problem is not how many more nuclear warheads the US still has than North Korea (or, in future, Iran). The problem is the signal that is sent by the combination of deep force cuts and the rhetoric about ‘leading from behind’, ‘nation building at home’ and ‘ending a decade of war’. What to the Obama administration is only an acknowledgement of reality, is criticised by US conservatives as declinism and, indeed, a lack of realism about the forces at play in the world. I believe these critics have a point. Spending cuts may be inevitable. But, especially with smart defence, pooling & sharing and the like, they do not necessarily mean weaker forces, which is why the accompanying language vis-à-vis rogue states like North Korea and Iran doesn’t have to be any more appeasing than it has been 5 or 10 years ago.

    Russia and China, of course, play key roles in making things easier for both regimes to fool the rest of the world. Upon North Korea’s test, China’s reaction was the habitual call for calm and moderation on all sides. This cannot continue. Europe and America have to coordinate their efforts more closely in trying to convince China to a more openly tough line on Kim Jong Un.

    Second, in principle, what can be done about regimes that have or aspire to have nuclear weapons, that export terrorism and that cannot be ultimately deterred by the nuclear weapons of others because their elites are demonstrably following a different logic than the rest of the world? – Sanctions, is the usual answer. But, alas, neither in North Korea nor in Iran, sanctions have so far had any visible effect on the nuclear ambitions – although sanctions do hurt. Which is why they will have to be maintained – if only to show that it doesn’t pay off to be a rogue playing with nukes. But in order to solve the problem at hand, in the long run I am afraid there is no alternative to regime change, that time-honoured concept for which alone many Europeans would have liked to see George W. Bush stand Court in The Hague. It’s still a toxic term, and the method used in Iraq in 2003 may remain out of fashion for a while. But the very intention to change a regime that has become a liability to its own people as much as to everyone else, with all available means, and to help the people to replace it by something better for peace at home and in the world – that we will have to relearn. That involves more non-military than military options. From media such as Radio Liberty to democracy support by NGOs, from helping exiles to the use of facebook, the methods may vary and change over time. But the strategic goal must not. And in extreme cases and moments, it can still involve the use of military instruments, such as clandestine operations, or training and arming rebels. We may invent a new term for regime change. That does not change the fact that the West needs to pursue it, with patience and determination, and based on strength.

    Interestingly, in North Korea, one important driver for change from within seems to come from the sweet poison of Western pop culture, smuggled into the country on DVDs and USB sticks by a new class of black market traders and mini-entrepreneurs. This should be exploited and encouraged. In other words, let’s capitalise on it, quite literally!

    [Picture source: www.theatlanticwire.com]

    Roland Freudenstein Defence Foreign Policy

    Roland Freudenstein

    Rogues, nukes and regime change


    12 Feb 2013

  • A political decision was made at NATO Lisbon summit 2010 to end the now 102 000 strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission by the end of 2014, possibly still leaving a small contingent in place. This would leave the main security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with 350 000 men.

    However, are politically set timelines always realistic when applied on the ground? Notwithstanding President Hamid Karzai’s reassurance that Afghanistan has progressed and become more stable during the past decade, and that NATO is convinced the ANSF will deliver, the Afghan forces still lack important skills. As a senior US defence official last week put it, only a very small percentage of Afghan units are capable of fully independent operations, even though the ANSF should take control of the whole country by mid-2013. Also, according to the Global Terrorism Index, Afghanistan is the third on the list of countries under terrorist attack, and alongside with Iraq and Pakistan the attacks have more than quadrupled in the past decade, reaching their peak in 2007. Afghans themselves are afraid: will they again be left alone as many times before?

    Afghanistan has more or less become NATO’s raison d’être in the past decade, so it needs to continue securing Afghanistan even after 2014. Indeed, a new training, advising and assisting mission will commence after ISAF, but its exact size and scope remain unknown. At the Chicago summit, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made one thing clear: ‘It will not be ISAF under a different name. It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO.’ The US will again have the key role and it’s currently negotiating the mission with Afghan officials; details are to be announced in the coming weeks. Estimates of the number of troops involved run from 6000 to 30000. The mission could also be very limited if it focuses only on core tasks such as counter-terrorism, as the Pentagon has indicated. Nevertheless, the new mission should be strong and long-lasting enough to prevent the emergence of a power vacuum.

    The war for hearts and minds

    The insurgents, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, are waiting for such a vacuum. Over the past few years they have expanded their attacks to cover the whole country, and changed their strategy from military targets to soft ones, using suicide attacks and road side bombs against the Afghan police, civil servants and civilians including children. In addition to demonstrating their power to attacks whenever and wherever they want, their aim is to create distrust amongst the Afghan people towards a government that is unable to protect them.

    The international and Afghan troops are also facing a newer more terrifying weapon, the ‘green on blue’ attacks, where the troops are killed by the very people they train – the Afghan soldiers and policemen, insurgents in disguise or recruited members of the forces. Some claim the recruitment vetting procedure has not been able to keep up with the rapid expansion of the forces, and ISAF is now improving the security protocols.

    Nevertheless, the insider attacks have already caused a crisis of trust between the coalition and Afghan troops. The contributing countries have been demoralised by news of casualties, a lack of improvement in the security situation and slow progress in state reforms. The sense of belief of the mission has been undermined also by internal divisions in NATO, such as the feeling in the US that Europe is not doing enough. The political left has generally supported ending the mission and some Allies have decided to exit before the agreed timetable: France under President François Holland pulled its combat troops out just earlier this week, following the Netherlands (2010) and Canada (2011). President Barack Obama has also expressed his intention to withdraw the troops as fast as possible.

    Peace deal or civil war

    There are different scenarios as to what will happen to Afghanistan. The best, but also the least likely solution, would be a successful transition leading to a loss of interest by the insurgents. Also difficult, but already underway, is an attempt to negotiate a political settlement between the Afghan government and the insurgents. As it’s become evident that no military solution is possible, this has become the main objective also for the West. So far President Karzai hasn’t been able to get parties around the table under his ‘High Peace Council’. Keeping the Taliban’s close ally Haqqani network out of the talks might also delay matters (they were recently blacklisted by the US and UN). Also, as 2014 approaches, one might ask how willing will the Taliban be to negotiate.

    No real progress is expected anytime soon, but some individuals from the Afghan government and the Taliban are meeting for the first time this week in Paris. If there is no result before the coalition leaves, the third, and at this point most likely, scenario could happen. This would mean Afghanistan falling back into a civil and proxy war with large parts of the country under a ruthless Islamist rule, and acting as a safe haven for terrorists such as al-Qaeda. The presidential elections in April 2014 will be decisive: will the people trust the government, or will the country drift back into chaos.

    Regional power-play

    The peace talks should also address regional aspects. The Western interest in Afghanistan might diminish, but its strategic position, energy routes and rich materials, remain relevant to the regional powers. Even though there is not much the EU and NATO can do to influence these powers, we should recognise their impact on Afghanistan, and therefore on our own security.

    Pakistan’s fate is most closely interlinked with Afghanistan’s and its general elections in 2013 will have a huge impact on the region. Pakistan claims to be committed to a stable Afghanistan, and the US is paying it to fight the insurgents, but at the same time Pakistan is accused of offering the Taliban sanctuary. On top of this, the Pakistani Taliban now intends to focus their attacks more on US forces in Afghanistan instead of the Pakistani government. Pakistan was a supporter of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, and now it’s demanding that the Haqqanis should be involved in negotiations. In the end, what Pakistan wants is to counterbalance India.

    In turn, India has no sympathy for the Taliban and it helps the Afghan government by donating funds and training the forces. Trade is important to all the regional players however it’s China whose interests in Afghanistan are mostly economic. It wants a stable Afghanistan to invest and gain from its raw materials, and it tries to stay out of fights. However it objects to a permanent US presence in Afghanistan, as does Iran. Iran also has a strong economic position in Afghanistan and a large minority of Afghan migrants and refugees, who it’s now rejecting because of a dislike of Afghan pro-American policies. Regardless of this it supports the Afghan government, but also the Taliban to some extent to erode US dominance.

    Competing with Iran for influence is its archrival Saudi Arabia. Turkey also plays a significant role as a regional power and a mediator between the Afghanistan and Pakistan. For its own security’s sake, Russia wants to see a stable Afghanistan and containment of Islamist extremism. On the other hand, it has no interest in making Afghanistan look like a success for the West.

    Towards the future or back to the past

    In the end transparent and lawful governance and real economic opportunities for people is what would guarantee stability in the country. President Karzai has been accused of insufficient reforms, and Afghanistan remains the third most corrupt country in the world. It’s also the source of 90 per cent of the world’s opium, and 2012 saw an 18 per cent increase in its cultivation. The drug business not only contributes to organised crime and is a global concern, but is one of the Taliban’s main financial sources.

    Continued international support for reforms is needed and funding of over 12 million euros for economic and political transition in Afghanistan by the international community has been agreed. Merely donating, however, is not enough: the EU should not leave the business opportunities just for the other powers but increase our own economic ties as well; that would also contribute to a long-term development in Afghanistan.

    Our enemy’s worst enemy is the modernisation of society. The Afghans themselves, especially women, are worried what would happen to their embattled human rights and education efforts, should international support diminish. One open question is whether EU Member States will decide next summer to continue the EUPOL mission after 2014. EUPOL, which works on judicial reform and rule of law, on top of senior police training, cannot however remain without sufficient military protection and there are already concerns as several provinces are now left to their own devices.

    Without our help, Afghanistan might have a grimmer future, a repeat of the past or even worse, which would mean a grimmer future for the whole region, and for all of us.

    Conclusions: What Europe should do

    • The EU should strengthen its trade with Afghanistan for mutual benefit, identify where Europe could invest and export its know-how.
    • The EU and NATO together should create a comprehensive strategic concept on Afghanistan and the region, also identifying roles and tasks for both organisations.
    • The EU should continue its EUPOL mission and NATO guarantee sufficient military presence after 2014, basing exit-decisions on realities on the ground. A long-term engagement in Afghanistan is in Europe’s own interest.

    Picture source: author’s archive

    Henna Hopia Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Henna Hopia

    Afghanistan – Back to the Past? Update on EU and NATO involvement


    20 Dec 2012

  • The use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would create, for the EU and the West more broadly, the most dangerous moment in international security since the Cuban missile crisis. The EU needs to prepare for this eventuality and develop response options.

    Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Security

    Thinking the Unthinkable: How Might the EU Prepare for and React to a Russian Nuclear Strike on Ukraine?


    14 Oct 2022

  • A highlight of NATO’s forthcoming summit in Madrid in June 2022 will be the publication of its new Strategic Concept, a mission statement of the role and purpose of the alliance over the next decade. These periodic exercises by international organisations are frequently derided by critics as bureaucratic documents that reflect painful compromises, the lowest common denominator of consensus among the member states and wish lists of ambitions that are rarely implemented. Another criticism is that in a fast-changing world, the tasks and priorities that feature in these concepts are soon out of date and that what is not mentioned tends to quickly become more significant than what is included. Yet in the case of NATO, this criticism would be misplaced. War has returned to Europe, and military threats to the alliance’s security are now more real than they have been at any time since the height of the Cold War. If all of NATO’s 30 member states are to remain secure (and the number will eventually reach 32 when Finland and Sweden join), the alliance has to get its strategy for deterrence and collective defence right. It also needs to reduce Russia’s capability to inflict harm on its member states and partners over the long run, while managing crises and avoiding dangerous escalation. Thus, NATO’s critical choices now and in the immediate future carry unusually large risks and strategic consequences. This is why we should all be paying close attention to the debates on its new Strategic Concept which are currently taking place inside NATO. What is still valid in the existing concept, which dates back to 2010? And where can we expect new orientations and policy objectives? Will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it easier or harder for allies to reach consensus?

    Defence European Union NATO Security

    NATO’s New Strategic Concept: What Should We Expect?

    Policy Briefs

    15 Jun 2022

  • Defence EU-Russia Ukraine

    The changing realities of EU defence cooperation


    26 Apr 2022

  • Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has led to a turning point in Europe’s thinking on security and defence. The EU’s decision to finance the supply of lethal arms and equipment to Ukraine, along with Germany’s and other countries’ announcement to massively increase military spending, marks a remarkable reversal in Europe’s strategic culture.

    Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is Changing Europe’s Strategic Culture


    08 Mar 2022

  • For over a decade, the neighbourhoods of Europe have been faced with increasing external threats. It is not self-evident however that conflicts and disagreements will be solved within rules-based cooperation and established institutions. Recent actions of Russia, China, and Turkey, for example, have raised concerns. Is the EU capable enough to respond to new threats, such as hybrid and cyber warfare? Can the EU as a part of the Western security community respond to all the new challenges, and what options does Finland have – so far as a non-NATO country?

    Defence EU-Russia NATO Security

    Finland, Europe and the Western Security Community: What next?


    15 Oct 2021

  • The transatlantic relationship has been subjected to a significant stress test under the presidency of Donald Trump. Across Europe, the initial reaction to the election of Joe Biden was almost universally positive. Yet analysts tend to agree that there can be no return to the status quo ante. The world as we knew it under the Obama administration has changed in very fundamental ways, notably with the rise of an assertive China.

    Moreover, the Trump presidency has exacerbated the sharp polarisation of political preferences within the US. Bipartisan foreign policy is a feature of the past. Europe cannot assume there will be policy continuity after the next presidential election in 2024. It is time to take stock of transatlantic values and interests—which are not always in harmony—and to attempt to forge a new type of partnership across the Atlantic, one more geared to the realities of an emerging multipolar world.

    Europe should not abandon its attempts to develop a greater measure of autonomy from—or non-dependence on—the US. And the US should not see such yearnings as threatening. There will be many issues on which Europe and a Biden administration will work in harmony.

    But there will also be policy areas where friction could well arise, most notably over trade, China, Russia and the future of NATO. It would be in the interests of neither the US nor the EU for the latter to revert to the type of followership that has characterised its relations with the US since the Cold War. Only by recognising the distinctiveness of US and European values and interests will it be possible for the two sides to move towards a more balanced partnership that will confer true strength on their relationship.

    Defence Foreign Policy Transatlantic

    Europe and Biden: Towards a New Transatlantic Pact?

    Policy Briefs

    20 Jan 2021

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as the main engine of growth of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, owing to its naturally cross-cutting, general-purpose nature. From a military perspective, the range of potential applications is at least as vast as the current range of tasks that require human cognition, e.g., analysing and classifying visual data, organising logistics, operating vehicles, or tracking and engaging hostile targets. How can Western nations – by which I mean those nations that are members of either NATO or the European Union (or both) – make the most out of the rise of AI, bearing in mind its potential defence applications?

    AI Defence Innovation

    Artificial Intelligence and Western Defence Policy: A Conceptual Note


    12 Jan 2021

  • The EU has embarked on a process to develop a ‘Strategic Compass’ for its security and defence policy. This two-year process began in June 2020 and will conclude under the French EU Council Presidency in spring 2022. A German initiative, it is meant to narrow the gap between ambition and reality when it comes to the Union’s external action; facilitate the development of a shared strategic culture; and clarify the overall image of EU defence cooperation that Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), the European Defence Fund (EDF), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and other post-2016 initiatives have created. Broadly speaking, the Strategic Compass seeks to boost the EU’s ability to navigate through international challenges. It is driven by the member states and the European External Action Service (EEAS), with the involvement of the Commission and the European Defence Agency (EDA). To be successful, the Strategic Compass process has to be as concrete as possible in outlining how the EU should handle even its most difficult challenges. A compass is only useful if it can tell the navigator where north is. Likewise, for the Strategic Compass to be successful, the EU needs to set a clearly defined strategic north.

    Defence EU Institutions Security

    The Strategic Compass: Charting a New Course for the EU’s Security and Defence Policy

    Policy Briefs

    19 Dec 2020

  • The US presidential election on 3 November is likely to be consequential for America’s future and leadership on the world stage. However, it will also have implications for the EU as the two main candidates, President Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden, have different visions for the future of transatlantic relations and EU-US cooperation.

    Defence Elections EU-US Transatlantic

    Implications of the 2020 US Presidential Election for the EU


    27 Oct 2020

  • This paper discusses an idea to create a European Legion that has been put forward by Radoslaw Sikorski, MEP. This would be a new kind of EU military unit, made up of volunteers rather than national contingents contributed by the member states. The idea stems from Sikorski’s desire to reform the EU’s existing battlegroups, which have been operational for 15 years but have never been used, despite numerous opportunities. The paper argues that although the EU’s 2007 Lisbon Treaty imposes heavy restrictions on the Union’s ability to deploy military force, it does not rule out conducting operations with a volunteer force. At the same time, a volunteer-based European Legion force would have to be created initially by a group of member states outside the EU framework. These states could then make it available to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy as, for example, a permanent battlegroup. An existing model would be the multinational Eurocorps.

    Crisis Defence EU Institutions EU Member States

    Rethinking EU Crisis Management – From Battlegroups to a European Legion?

    Policy Briefs

    16 Jun 2020

  • The current COVID-19 pandemic will change the world, like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 9/11 terror attacks. For the foreseeable future, EU governments will be preoccupied with dealing with the pandemic’s immediate socio-economic consequences. However, other policy areas will be affected as well. With regard to the EU’s security and defence policy, COVID-19 is likely to extinguish the unprecedented dynamism that has characterised its development since 2016. Its most immediate impact is likely to be decreased funding for several new initiatives such as the European Defence Fund. The pandemic is also likely to reduce the EU’s readiness to address crises in its neighbourhood and may hasten the Union’s relative decline as a global power if its recovery is slow and wrought by prolonged disputes between the member states over the appropriate economic response to the crisis. Yet, the EU should not completely abandon its pre-COVID-19 security and defence agenda. Both during and after the pandemic, the Union will continue to face familiar challenges such as cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and instability in its neighbourhood.

    COVID-19 Crisis Defence Security

    The EU’s Security and Defence Policy: The Impact of the Coronavirus


    20 Apr 2020

  • The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy was launched in 1998 as a quest for ‘autonomy’. The EU sought the capacity to stabilise its volatile neighbourhood without undue reliance on the US. Almost two decades of efforts have failed to deliver on that objective. But as EU leaders, post-Brexit, re-launch the Common Security and Defence Policy, as the 2016 European Global Strategy rediscovers the virtues of ‘strategic autonomy’, and as the world juggles with a US president who appears to question the very bases of the Atlantic Alliance, it is time to radically re-think the relations between the EU and NATO.

    This paper argues that, in the longer term, it is through strengthening the EU–NATO relationship, rather than by focusing on defence initiatives undertaken by the Union alone, that EU strategic autonomy will become possible. This will, at the same time, consolidate rather than weaken the transatlantic bond.

    Brexit Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    Strategic Autonomy: Why It’s Not About Europe Going it Alone

    Research Papers

    08 Aug 2019

  • The concept of political warfare is not new. Today, however, with the emergence of cyberspace as the fifth domain of war, the scope of political warfare, its diversity and its level of sophistication signify a break from past experience. What early ideas about political warfare identified as propaganda, psychological operations, or a race for the hearts and minds of the population can now be applied on a scale  never  seen  before. 

    This  article  offers  a  new  frame  of  reference  for  an old problem. In order to assess and adapt to the complex nature of inter-state competition in the cyber era, we need to understand how information technology is raising the relative importance of political warfare by transforming the social environment and its instruments of operation.

    Furthermore, although information technology is a neutral variable, the openness of Western societies increases the vulnerability of liberal democracies to political warfare. As a result, authoritarian regimes, terrorist groups and other revisionary forces of the twenty-first century are  undermining  democracy  and  freedom  around  the  world  by  targeting  the network society and by establishing new, virtual spheres of influence.

    Defence Security Technology

    Political Warfare: Competition in the Cyber Era

    Policy Briefs

    09 Apr 2019

  • There is currently an on-going debate about the possibility of creating a new European Security Council (ESC) within the EU. This is an old idea that has recently been resurrected by those seeking to transform the EU into a more effective international actor. The current discussion of the issue was initially started by French President Emmanuel Macron during his 2017 presidential campaign. But since then it has been taken over by leading German politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany party. The basic premise behind the idea is that the EU should have a new structure for strategic reflection and deliberation on foreign, security and defence policy, a forum that would not have seats for every EU member state. This would—so the argument goes—help the EU act more quickly and more decisively when a crisis or challenge emerged that required action from the Union.

    This paper provides a blueprint for the creation of an ESC, a plan that political leaders could follow in the coming months. It envisages an intergovernmental ESC based in the Council of the EU. Its day-to-day operations would be handled by the Council Secretariat, which would make the ESC relatively resource-neutral in terms of the additional staff and funding it requires. Hence, it would be not so much a new institution as an additional structure within an existing institution, which also means that it would not require separate mechanisms to handle its interactions with NATO or France’s new European Intervention Initiative. The ESC would have seats for 10 member states, five of which would have permanent seats (i.e. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland), three rotating and two case-specific seats. In addition, the ESC would have seats for a chairman, a military and civilian advisor, representatives from the European Commission and the European Parliament, and representatives from the relevant EU agencies, depending on the nature of the item being discussed. However, only the member states with permanent and rotating seats would vote on ESC decisions.

    Defence EU Institutions European Union Security

    EU It Yourself: A Blueprint for a European Security Council

    Research Papers

    25 Mar 2019

  • One of the main concerns that voters are likely to have in their minds when casting their ballots in next  year’s european elections is security. This means that the EU needs an ambitious agenda in the area of security and defence for  2019-2024.  More specifically, it needs a set of concrete deliverables, which, if delivered properly and communicated effectively to european citizens, could help boost europeans’ sense of security where they might live in the Union.

    Defence EU Institutions EU Member States Foreign Policy Security

    Security and Defence policy: An Agenda for 2019-2024


    29 Nov 2018

  • This paper analyses the new European Intervention Initiative (EI2). Proposed by France, the EI2 is an intergovernmental forum outside the EU and NATO for enhancing  military  interactions  between  the  most  able  and  willing  European countries. By seeking to facilitate the development of a European strategic culture, it is an attempt to solve the demand-side problem of European defence cooperation—that is, most European countries’ unwillingness to intervene in crises and to use force when necessary.

    Defence EU Member States Security

    France’s European Intervention Initiative: Towards a Culture of Burden Sharing

    Policy Briefs

    03 Oct 2018

  • The EU has an important role to play in the management of the threat posed by North Korea. Indeed, Brussels already has a policy of ‘critical engagement’ towards Pyongyang which combines diplomatic and economic carrots with a number of sticks. This policy, however, is in need of an update to attend to two recent developments on the Korean Peninsula: North Korea’s status as a de facto nuclear power and the flurry of engagement and diplomacy involving North Korea—including top-level meetings with the US, South Korea and China.

    In this context, the EU should support its partners, South Korea and the US, as they launch a process that could lead to sustainable engagement with North Korea, denuclearisation, and, as a result, a more stable Korean Peninsula. Working with its partners, Europe should creatively use its power of engagement and cooperation to change behaviour. This will enhance the position of the EU as a constructive actor in Asian affairs, support efforts by the US and South Korea to engage North Korea and, ultimately, offer a better opportunity for the EU to achieve its goals.

    Defence European Union Security

    North Korea: Towards a More Effective EU Policy


    07 Sep 2018

  • The 14 April US-led missile strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack were necessary to reestablish deterrence against any future use of such weapons in the country. Yet, the strikes were reactive rather than strategic in nature, and will not change the course of syria’s civil war. This would require the West to outline a clear vision for the country’s future, and a strategy to achieve it.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Security

    The US-led missile strikes in Syria


    23 Apr 2018

  • American officials have raised concerns about Permanent Structured Cooperation, the EU’s new defence pact. If these concerns signal a broader shift in US policy towards EU defence cooperation, they will undermine US efforts to improve transatlantic burden sharing. 

    Defence EU-US Security Transatlantic

    New American scepticism on EU defence cooperation


    15 Mar 2018

  • The European Union is experiencing a new dynamic behind its quest for a credible security and defence capacity. New projects and mechanisms suggest a shift in European ambition.

    This paper assesses the reality of this new dynamic, arguing that the EU needs a clearly articulated grand strategy – outlining the objectives in the Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods, and tailoring those objectives to realistic means. Those means will range from high end assets to purely civilian assets. Defence spending will require structured Europeanisation. 

    Involvement of third countries will require creative legal developments. EU-NATO relations must undergo fundamental revision. If ‘strategic autonomy’, the objective of the European Global Strategy, is to become a reality, it will involve the EU progressively assuming leadership within NATO, thereby meeting the calls across the United States for the allies to assume greater responsibility for their own affairs.

    Defence EU Member States European Union Future of Europe Security

    For a True European Defence Union

    Future of Europe

    07 Dec 2017

  • This paper analyses the unstoppable phenomenon of globalisation through the lens of cyberspace. It looks at how the threats associated with this domain could evolve into a cyberwar. The paper assesses the EU’s stance on cyberspace and elaborates the directions that the EU should develop and pursue in this regard.

    It begins by examining the meaning of various cyber-related terms as a way of explaining the risks, threats and challenges of cyberspace. It then goes on to detail the EU’s approach to cyberspace. The paper concludes by outlining a way to increase the EU’s cyber-defence capacity and scope through the creation of an EU cyber-command that would centrally coordinate operational capacity in cyberspace in order to pursue the development of hard and offensive cyber-power.

    Finally, the paper also builds on the European People’s Party’s (EPP’s) call for strengthened resilience against cyberwar and offers a suggestion for an EU response to hybrid warfare and cyberwar, as outlined in the EPP’s Congress document Europe Secures Our Future

    Defence Globalisation Internet

    Cyber-Defence: Strengthening the EU’s Resilience in the Virtual Domain


    29 Aug 2017

  • Donald Trump’s election to President of the US in November 2016 might well become one of the most momentous events in the relationship between Europe and North America since the end of the Cold War.

    Although this relationship has already gone through substantial changes in the last 25 years, the current challenges seem more formidable than many of the past crises.

    External threats to Europe and, to a lesser extent, America are intensifying. Rather than unifying the West, these challenges have provoked internal divisions within the transatlantic community that are greater than ever before.

    Defence EU-Russia Security Transatlantic

    A New Transatlantic Agenda: Challenges and Opportunities in the Trump Era


    24 May 2017

  • It is widely believed that Britain’s decision to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election to the White House have strengthened both the case for and the possibility of an ambitious EU defence policy, perhaps even of an EU army.

    This short paper  argues that, contrary to widespread fears, the EU can become a powerful security and defence policy player without adopting the hierarchical structures of traditional states and while maintaining decentralised defence responsibilities and a pluralist institutional framework. 

    Two relevant historical examples—the Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League—are presented to draw general lessons on how the EU could accomplish this, thus becoming an effective ‘postmodern power. 

    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Security Policy: The Case for a Postmodern EU Defence Architecture


    15 Mar 2017

  • Many Western politicians have drawn attention to the presence of Russian military equipment in the Donbass. NATO has released several satellite images depicting suspicious movements of the Russian army (RA) near the Ukrainian border and of border crossings of military equipment.

    All of this is further confirmed by evidence that military equipment used only by the Russian Armed Forces is now in the hands of separatists and by developments in the battlefield, especially the surprising separatist counteroffensive at the beginning of August and September 2014. 

    In  spite  of  the  factual  evidence,  some  European  media  consider  the question of Russian intervention to be simply a matter of opinion. They approach the issue from this perspective, apparently in order to maintain as much objectivity as possible. This uncertainty on the part of the media is supported by public figures who reject the idea that Russia is involved in the conflict.

    The end result of all this is that views on the issue are considered to be nothing more than personal opinions. The contradictions between the facts on the ground and media reporting prevent parts of European society from understanding what is happening in Ukraine.

    As we see it, the situation in Ukraine must not be perceived as a matter of opinion. The public has a right to true and clear information and this is our contribution to providing it.

    Using publicly available information, the paper provides irrefutable evidence that Russia has provided weapons to Ukrainian separatists and intervened in Ukraine. It is the presence of T-72B3 tanks, in particular, that proves beyond all doubt that the Russian military has intervened in Ukraine.

    Defence Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security

    Caught in the Act: Proof of Russian Military Intervention in Ukraine


    30 Jul 2015

  • This research paper examines two modern disruptive military technologies that are being used increasingly frequently: remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) and cyber-attacks. These technologies are called disruptive because they are profoundly changing our societies and warfare. These changes also apply to Europe, so it needs to take them into account and adapt to the changes. More conventional threats have not disappeared, however, but are sometimes used alongside the new methods, as Russian aggression in Ukraine has shown. Europe is facing a hybrid threat with multiple elements that blend together and can change rapidly. However, Europe is falling behind in developing or even dealing with new technologies. Insufficient investment has been made in research and development (R&D) and, due to a decline in military technology programmes, the European defence industry is suffering. If this continues we might lose important capabilities that have already been jeopardised by defence-budget cuts in recent years, and the existence of European military technology know-how could even be endangered. Creating European projects, such as a common RPAS, and economies of scale will be necessary to support the European defence industry.

    Defence Foreign Policy Innovation Technology

    Dawn of the Drones: Europe’s Security Response to the Cyber Age

    Research Papers

    17 Apr 2015

  • The ceasefire negotiated in Minsk last week by the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine (with delegates from the Separatists) is supposed to end the fighting, it fixes the ‘line of contact’ along the old one of the Minsk I agreement of September 2014, postulates the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line, assures administrative decentralisation and Ukrainian government control of the border with Russia, and calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops. 

    But we can safely predict that a sizeable part of these conditions will not be met, above all by Russia and the separatists. That is because it is obviously in the interest of the Russian government to destabilise Ukraine and try to prevent a successful transformation of Ukraine into a free and prosperous country with the rule of law. Hence, the confrontation with Russia will continue, and last week has shown that the United States is an indispensable strategic partner for Europe when our most vital interests are concerned.

    IN FOCUS is a new series of commentaries in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.

    Defence Democracy Eastern Europe EU-Russia Security

    Ukraine after Minsk II: The military situation on the ground


    13 Feb 2015

  • For the time being, France is still committed to delivering both Mistrals to Russia, but on the other hand, it is unthinkable that France would help modernise the Russian navy given the aggressive behaviour of Russia in Ukraine and the general future outlook for the whole  region  –  and  especially  the  rather  offensive  character  of the  weapon  system concerned. This commentary assesses the viable alternative to the sale of the Mistrals to Russia.  

    IN FOCUS is a new series of commentaries in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.

    Defence EU Member States EU-Russia Security

    EU-Russia relations: How the EU should handle the Mistral case


    16 Sep 2014

  • Europe needs to use the strengths of both the EU and NATO to effectively respond to the ever more diverse threats that require collective efforts. This is the only way through which European security can be guaranteed in the face of struggles with limited resources and decreasing defence funding, as well as the further US disengagement from Europe. For this to happen, and as both organisations share most of the same member states, it is vital to achieve better cooperation between the EU and NATO. Attempts to strengthen EU-NATO relations have been made, but these have not been enough. The attempts always hit the same walls: both between the EU and NATO, and within these organisations. All EU Member States and the organisations themselves must now take responsibility and end the futile competition between the EU and NATO that is undermining European security.

    Defence Foreign Policy Security Transatlantic

    Breaking Down the Walls: Improving EU–NATO Relations

    Research Papers

    29 May 2013

  • The question of what Europe’s nuclear strategy should be is rarely discussed. While Europe continues to play a crucial role on issues relating to non-proliferation, particularly in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, nuclear strategy is generally considered to be within remit of Russia, the United States and NATO.

    The paper identifies possible scenarios where the deployment of nuclear weapons may be justified. It also examines the use of tactical nuclear weapons, traditional means of arms control and the implications of a nuclear Iran. The author establishes a compelling case for the immediate development of a coherent European nuclear strategy. This strategy should take into account the role of nuclear weapons in maintaining peace and security in modern Europe.

    While conceding that during periods of financial and political crisis dialogue may not be considered a priority, the author maintains that it is essential in order to limit the risk of proliferation or the use of nuclear weapons.

    Defence EU-US Foreign Policy Middle East Security

    Rethinking the Bomb: Europe and Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century

    Research Papers

    06 Mar 2013

  • It’s said that security is indivisible. But to the same extent that security cannot be subdivided, threats to security can be reduced to smaller units and analysed individually. This collection of articles subjects security – inevitably a central, existential concern for every state, nation and individual – to a somewhat more multifaceted treatment. The aim of this collection is to provide a new impulse for stronger cooperation. Particularly noteworthy is that the book brings together a wide variety of European voices pursuing a common goal. This sounds very optimistic and also necessary, as we cannot afford long and cumbersome processes, especially in the field of security policy. Threats and crises have the capacity to hit us with sudden inevitability, as the civil war in Libya has demonstrated. We must be able to act at the moment of crisis, not only later. Preference is given to a proactive security policy that is focused on avoiding all crises and military conflicts from the outset. Thus, this collection of ideas is being published at the right time. We are in dire need of a broad debate on the future of European Common Security and Defence Policy that brings together as many clever thinkers as possible. The following pages are well suited to acting as a starting point for such a debate.

    Defence Immigration Security

    Conservative Foreign and Security Policy


    18 Dec 2012

  • The global trend for contracting out the supply of military and security services to private military and security companies is growing. Security is being transformed from a service for the public or common good into a privately provided service. The present paper by Nikolaos Tzifakis argues that the implications of outsourcing security services to private agencies are not a priori positive or negative; proper regulation of private military and security services is important.

    The author recommends that states should determine their ‘inherently governmental functions’ and keep these functions out of the market’s reach. States should attempt to mitigate some of the shortcomings in the operation of the private market for security services by preventing supply from determining its own demand. States need to avoid contracting out services to corporations that enjoy a monopoly in the market. Instead, they should open competitive bids for all private security contracts.

    Defence Foreign Policy Security

    Contracting out to Private Military and Security Companies

    Research Papers

    23 Jul 2012

  • NATO and the European Union have developed, enlarged and grown closer to each other. With common security threats, which are global in nature and hold both new and old elements, the tasks of these two organisations have aligned. Now it is important to ask what must be done to avoid overlapping ef orts and to create beneficial synergies. The nature of these organisations offers possibilities and generates standards for further cooperation and integration. The purpose of this paper is to describe developments in the ever changing security environment of Europe, and the steps the EU and NATO have taken to tackle these threats. Could there be more profound defence cooperation between the EU and NATO? 

    Defence European Union Foreign Policy Security

    The Finnish Perspective: European Defence


    02 Jun 2008